Marigot Fackenthal
Tucker Foehl

Some very important visitors will be stopping by in the middle of March.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges/California Association of Independent Schools’ visiting committees  (WASC/CAIS) accredit independent schools every six years, and they’re coming to SCDS from Monday, March 13 to Friday, March 17.

The committee visiting SCDS is headed by the Rev. Canon Julian Bull, the headmaster of Campbell Hall School in North Hollywood.

The accreditation assures the community and colleges that the school has clear objectives with regards to education and is “committed to ongoing improvement,” according to WASC’s website.

Actually, the accreditation has already begun with a self-study.

Assistant head of school Tucker Foehl is leading the work for the self-study, which started in the summer.

Foehl said that the CAIS has a new framework for the self-study.

“It’s more reflective and geared towards why we do what we do instead of what we do,” Foehl said.

The self-study was submitted to the Accreditation Portal in December, head of school Lee Thomsen said.

The self-study has 16 categories, including Institutional Purpose and Core Values, Teaching and Learning, Financial Sustainability, Operations and Institutional Improvement and Sustainability.

Faculty, staff, community and the Board of Trustees answer questions via the portal.

For example, the question “How effectively are faculty members engaged in the process of assessing and improving teaching and learning?” was first asked to a small group of teachers, who wrote the first draft of the answer. Their draft then went to a smaller group that came in and “cleaned up” the answer, according to Thomsen.

The committee reviews the self-study before visiting. When they come, they’ll check whether the school honestly evaluated itself in the study, make suggestions as to what the school should prioritize based on its self-study list, and  talk to students, faculty and Board members.

They’ll also visit classes and pull students aside to ask them questions about the school.

If the committee sees aspects that are missing from the self-study during the visit, they will make recommendations in a report sent in April.

The WASC/CAIS committee gave the school six recommendations in its 2011 report, when SCDS received a six-year accreditation with a three-year interim progress report.

Those recommendations included creating “a special task force to address sustainability,” evaluating and communicating the school’s goals to all constituencies, and ensuring that middle- and high-school facilities are good enough for their programs.

But Thomsen said SCDS isn’t waiting for the committee’s recommendations to take action on other matters that the school has pinpointed to be a problem with the help of the self-study’s questions.

“We’re not going to wait until the visiting team comes to change or look at faculty evaluations,” Thomsen said.

In fact, the school is forming a committee to study the faculty evaluation process in December.

Foehl and Thomsen said they are hopeful and confident that SCDS will receive a full accreditation (six years) again.

By Katia Dahmani

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