In recent budget cycles, Newtown High School has prioritized needed preparations for an anticipated 2015 New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC) visit, including additional teaching positions.
Newtown High School Principal Charles Dumais said on Friday, August 30, the date of that visit has finally been announced.
Mr Dumais received a letter on Friday, August 30, announcing the visit. NEASC Director Janet D. Allison wrote, “The school’s application for its decennial accreditation visit has been processed, and we have scheduled Newtown High School for a visiting committee on October 4, 2015, through October 7, 2015.”
NEASC is a regional accrediting association that establishes standards for all levels of education.
When preparing for the visit, Mr Dumais said until this week that it was hard to gauge whether NEASC would come to NHS in the spring of 2015 or the fall of 2015. Now that it is known the visit will be in the fall, Mr Dumais said it gives the district a defined time to continue preparing.
Mr Dumais also estimated the high school is ahead of where it needs to be in the “preparing stage.”
The 2015 visit will be the first since NEASC placed NHS on warning status, mostly due to overcrowding, following a 2006 visit. By March of 2011, Mr Dumais received a letter announcing the warning status had been removed, thanks in large part to the completed high school expansion.
In the 2011 letter, the Commission on Public Secondary Schools cited the completion of the expansion, the positive impact of the renovation work, the addition of a ninth grade mentoring program, the enhancement of the grade nine transition experience, and the implementation of monthly half-day releases in place for professional learning communities as reasons why the warning status was lifted.
The original 2006 report said, “For Newtown High School to be successful in fulfilling its potential and truly preparing all its students for a knowledge-based, technologically driven world, the community of Newtown must do much more to support the teachers’ efforts to improve learning for every student. The overcrowded facility, the lack of adequate numbers of teachers, the overworked staff and the limited technology are all issues that the community must address quickly.”
The report continued, “The Newtown community does not ensure an adequate and dependable source of revenue to provide and maintain appropriate school programs, personnel, services, facilities, equipment, technological support, materials and supplies for student learning. Despite the financial resources of the community and its citizens that places Newtown in the top ranks of the communities in Connecticut that are able to provide revenue, Newtown High School is ranked 139 out of the 169 school districts in Connecticut in per pupil expenditure.”
During an October 16, 2012 Board of Education meeting, Mr Dumais outlined plans to prepare for the 2015 visit. All the work, he told the school board at the time, to prepare for the visit is being overseen by a steering committee.
The 2015 visit will be the conclusion to an extensive self-study. Mr Dumais told the school board in 2012 that the self-study includes “hundreds and hundreds” of work hours.
Mr Dumais announced the visit’s scheduled dates on the high school blog, http://dumais.us/newtown/blog/?p=25592, saying, “Newtown High School will be actively engaged in the self study process over the next two years in preparation for the visit. We will be asking for input from staff, students, and parents throughout the process.”
The steering committee kicked-off its efforts with a dinner at NHS in May, and Mr Dumais has been posting updates on the high school blog.