This week our district played host to the SACS-CASI Quality Assurance Review Team. I have been through several SACS accreditation visits, both at the local school level and at the district level, and this is something that is always a pain in the posterior. It’s never fun.
First, there’s the paperwork – mountains of it. Then there are all of the meetings required to generate all that paperwork. Most of this takes the form of vision statements, beliefs, and goals spun out in various dialects of Educationese which probably will sound like “duh” statements to the general public. Example…
Mission – The mission of District Five Schools of Spartanburg County is to ensure that all students succeed in life choices and function as productive citizens by providing quality educational experiences in a safe, caring, and nurturing environment.
Vision – In order to improve the quality of life for the students and community in our school district, we will provide superior educational opportunities by maintaining a multidimensional curriculum and state-of-the-art facilities.
I call these “duh” statements because I figure that the public will read them (if they read them at all) and think, “Isn’t that what you’re SUPPOSED to be doing??” I guess sometimes it is important to state the obvious.
After we generate our mountain of paperwork, the Quality Assurance Review Team (QART) breezes into town and attempts to make an assessment of our district. Fortunately, it’s a short visit. But I still wonder if they can get a true feel for what we do with only a few hours on-campus. I guess I should be careful with what I wish for – staying longer could mean finding more to correct.
Today we had the wrap-up, and the QART will recommend to the AdvancED Accreditation Commission that our district be awarded District Accreditation as a quality school system. We can breathe easier now…
…or at least some of us.
I have now become a catch-phrase. During my interview with the QART yesterday I was asked about my goals for the district. I said that overall my responsibility was to provide information technology resources to students and teachers when and where they need them. More specifically, in the short-term I would be working to get our new schools open with the proper infrastructure, etc. I would also be working to address issues relating to technology equity so that we don’t leave behind our existing schools. I also cited several examples of how we are already working toward that end. These include providing video on demand and IP television to all classrooms, and making sure that we have a robust infrastructure that will support future growth. We have these in place now for every school in our district.
So, imagine my surprise when this was one of the “challenges” listed in the wrap-up report today…
Equity of technology in all schools: Although everyone wants “more”, a comprehensive analysis of the district’s infrastructure, hardware needs in relation to how those purchases will be incorporated into classroom instruction to increase student achievement, and necessary staff training to ensure the effective use of district technology by staff and students.
Apart from it being an incomplete sentence, I wasn’t expecting my comments to be turned into the largest bulleted point in the entire presentation. When I uttered the phrase “technology equity” yesterday I saw the committee members writing furiously. I didn’t know they would latch onto that phrase in such a way.
However, this could be a good thing. If I need more money from the board for a project, all I need to do is point to that bulleted point. I even mentioned this to a couple of our board members and our superintendent. My boss even said that he was going to start calling me “Captain Equity.”
Regardless, I’m just glad the process is over. I do plan to use this “challenge” to my advantage, rather than take it as an indictment of some failure. In the short term, however, my goal is to relax and try to get over this tremendous headache. I think that’s a goal anyone, inside or out of education, can understand.