HCPS gains full accreditation

Published 6:34 pm Wednesday, October 8, 2008

WINTON – Student focused education has been the mantra of Hertford County Public Schools under Dr. Michael G. Basham.

As stated in the district’s vision, that belief is, “Hertford County Public Schools, a system of excellence, every child challenged, every child valued and every child prepared for the 21st Century.”

Such is the pervasiveness of that message that the AdvancED Quality Assurance Review (QAR) team included it as one of the strengths of the school district when they presented their accreditation report Wednesday afternoon during a special meeting of the Hertford County Board of Education.

During the meeting, the board and Dr. Basham were informed the QAR would recommend full accreditation of the Hertford County Public School district.

“It is our team’s belief that Hertford County Schools needs to be accredited without stipulations,” said Dr. Sharon Zimmers, who chaired the Quality Assurance Review committee. “Congratulations on your progress. We find many things that have been initiated. They need to be continued.”

Dr. Zimmers gave the report of the team to members of the school board and a packed audience of school administrators and instructional specialists. During the 30-minute presentation, she gave the district feedback observed by her team in four areas: strengths, commendations, challenges and recommendations.

One of the strengths she gave was the district’s ability to have staff and stakeholders (including parents and the community) buy into the vision of the district.

“We believe you live that. We believe you breathe it,” Dr. Zimmers said of the motto.

In all, the district received eight notations of strength and nine commendations.

One of the strongest commendations was the strategic and innovative recruitment and retention efforts for quality staff. The board was commended not only for Hertford Pointe (the apartments provided to teachers at a lower rent that was constructed in conjunction with the State Employees’ Credit Union Foundation), but for the other programs that were attracting and retaining good teachers in Hertford County.

She also said the relationship between the board and the superintendent was an area in which the district should be commended.

In the area of challenges, the QAR group noted the poverty of many of the students in the school district and the lack of opportunities provided students outside of school.

The biggest challenge, according to Zimmers, is overcoming the “perception and/or reality” of what used to happen in the school district.

“We think that’s a real challenge, but we think you’re ready for it,” she said.

After receiving news of the accreditation recommendation, the four members of the school board who were in attendance expressed their appreciation for the work of the committee and staff.

“I knew ya’ll could do it,” board member David L. Shields told the staff members present. “We’ve got great people, great leadership and we have a lot of great things going on.

“We’re going to make it,” he added.

Board member Ronald G. Baker said he was thankful to the employees of HCPS for their work.

“Thank you to everyone in the system for their hard work and congratulations on the results,” he said. “I’m sure this is a harbinger of things to come.”

Dennis M. Deloatch, the newest member of the board, said he remembered working for accreditation by what was then the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools when he was a principal in the district.

“I surely understand the hard work that has to be done by teachers and administrators for this to happen,” he said. “It’s good to know we’re still on the right track.”

Board Chairman John D. Horton said he appreciated the committee coming to Hertford County, but emphasized his appreciation for the school system employees.

“The employees of Hertford County Public Schools made this happen,” he said. “I’ve been on this board for 22 years and I see chemistry that I have always dreamed of.

“I’ve served with numerous boards and we have always made our greatest achievements when the board has great chemistry,” he added. “I think we have that now.”

Horton also told the staff members present to take the good news back to their schools.

“I wish the total population was here because they made this happen,” he said.

AdvancED accreditation standards and processes were implemented in the 2007-08 school year and are based on the on-going self-assessment against the quality standards, rigorous on-site evaluation and continuous improvement. The accreditation is based on a five-year term.

Hertford County Public Schools, joined by key stakeholders, began in late 2006 the process of critically reviewing its current status and identifying action steps for becoming a continuously improving school district.

The process continued until this week when the QAR visited the school district. During that visit, they conducted more than 200 interviews including: 26 parents or community members, 30 administrators, 60 students, 77 teachers, three board members, seven instructional support staff and 12 support staff.

After visiting Bearfield Primary School, Riverview Elementary School, Hertford County Middle School, Hertford County High School and the C.S. Brown Student Development Center, the group studied their data and made Wednesday’s recommendation.

(More information about the report will be available in a future edition of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and online at www.roanoke-chowannewsherald.com.)