OCS earns reaccreditation

Published 12:04 am Friday, September 26, 2014

Opp City Schools earned accreditation for the next five years from AdvancED this week.

Superintendent Michael Smithart said the accreditation comes down to accountability.

“Accreditation is the ultimate measure of quality, like a professional seal of approval, because it assures the public across the board — parents, business leaders, policymakers — that a particular institution is prepared to teach our students and equip them for their future,” he said. “By holding school districts to high standards, we are assuring the public that they can be confident in our schools.”

AdvancED praised OCS for its commitment toward operational practices that assure the responsible and effective operation of the district; ensuring that leadership at all levels has the autonomy to meet goals for achievement and instruction, and to manage the day-to-day operations effectively; and that teachers have a deep concern for the well being of every child.

“It was so rewarding to have the review team take note of the family atmosphere at our schools,” Smithart said. “They commended us for the caring and nurturing nature of our staff. We try to encourage a family atmosphere. Just like any family, we don’t always get along and sometimes disagree, but at end of the day we all share the same goal.”

AdvancED gave the system some improvement priorities, including implementing a formal procedure in which each student is well known by at least one adult advocate in the school.

“AdvancED is strongly encouraging each and every school to have a formal advisory program,” Smithart said. “We have aspects of this in place, but not a formal program. We will begin work on this immediately. Our surveys indicate that our students feel safe, secure and welcome, so that’s not an issue. It’s just a matter of formalizing the program.”

Another priority the team suggested was for the system to develop and implement a comprehensive district-wide policy that provides for coordination, monitoring and evaluation of programs and personnel so information resources, support systems, instructional practices and student services will meet the needs of all students.

“We were somewhat taken aback by the priority the committee listed,” Smithart said. “It’s not that we don’t do what the team recommends, in fact they commended us earlier in the report, it’s that we don’t have a formal policy.

“I am proud of the collaboration of our staff and the manner in which we do our jobs,” he said. “It’s just a matter of writing a policy to state that is what we do.”

The team also commended OCS on:

• its commitment to college and career readiness through their robust program of dual enrollment with LBWCC;

• the community, school system, board of education and students for their uncommon commitment to the sports programs and facilities;

• the student ambassador program for their exceptional dedication to OCS, and their community efforts in representing the district with pride and passion;

• the Pre-AP and AP courses that embrace the 21st Century academic challenges faced by high school graduates; and,

• the cheerleading team for their tremendous dedication and effort in winning the 2012 state championship.

“I am so proud of our faculty, students and parents,” Smithart said. “We know entering into this process that the team would find what we already know, and that Opp Schools are a terrific place for a child to receive a quality education and a wonderful place to work. When you read through the report, that is exactly what you find. We are excited to be recommended for accreditation, and we look forward to making and working to make Opp Schools even better.”

Opp High School Principal Ron Snell echoed Smithart’s sentiments.

“(The review team) included a quote from a student that said, ‘this is a family. I feel wanted and protected here,’” Snell said. “That is a powerful and important concept if you want real student success. Clearly, there is so much for us to be proud of. We will reflect on their report and work hard to refine our strengths and our weaknesses. This is a system that is committed to continuous improvement related to student achievement. We are blessed to have tremendous teachers, parents and students.”