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QAR Report: Positives outweigh negatives

WINTON – It takes guts to have outside eyes come into a school district and outline strengths and weaknesses.

Dr. Michael G. Basham and the Hertford County Board of Education proved they have intestinal fortitude by going through District Accreditation from AdvancED. On Wednesday, the visiting Quality Assurance Review (QAR) team from AdvancED presented their findings along with a recommendation that Hertford County Public Schools be accredited without stipulation.

Members of the school board expressed their gratitude to staff and to the committee for the hard work necessary for the district to receive the accreditation.

During Wednesday’s called meeting of the board, Dr. Sharon Zimmers gave a report from the committee she chaired listing the strengths, commendations, challenges and recommendations of the QAR.

The list of strengths and commendations far outweighed the challenges and recommendations of the group.

Some of the strengths of the district, according to the outside review team, were:

The strategic and innovative recruitment and retention efforts for quality staff;

The development and pervasive implementation of the vision and purpose;

Community partnerships including those with Chowan University, Elizabeth City State University, Roanoke-Chowan Community College, Nucor, Kerr, State Employees Credit Union, New Teacher Collaborative, Hertford County Partnership for Children, Roanoke-Chowan Hospital and local county agencies;

The commitment made to bring the QAR to the district;

Strong leadership;

Dedication and committed to meet the needs of every child;

High expectations, innovations and as sense of pride; and

Commitment to the principles of learning.

The district also received nine commendations from the group. They specifically were impressed with the idea of the district accepting the challenge of going through the accreditation process.

“You asked an outside set of eyes to come in and look at what you’re doing,” Dr. Zimmers said. “We are people that have no stake in this district. That is healthy.”

The QAR team was also impressed with the way the district is empowering staff to become leaders. Dr. Zimmers said administrators were not the only ones being empowered, that teachers were as well.

She also said QAR was pleased with the district’s commitment both fiscal and in human resources, to ensure learning from all areas of the community

Dr. Zimmers also talked about the solid working relationship between Dr. Basham as Superintendent of Schools and the board of education.

“As a former superintendent, I’d like to take this board back to Ohio with me,” Dr. Zimmers joked.

The board was also commended for the strong commitment to acquisition of technology, providing common planning time and providing Instructional Specialists.

In their review of challenges, the review team said there were a few areas in which the district would face tests. Those included the high number of students experiencing poverty, lack of opportunity for student experience outside of school and overcoming the past perception and/or reality of what used to happen in the school system.

The district had five recommendations for the school system.

They included:

Develop a marketing plan to spread the word of a district changing for the better;

Develop and document a comprehensive Professional Development Plan;

Develop a consistent data analysis protocol;

Develop a process to systematically monitor district and school strategies; and

Conduct a safety needs assessment.

The Quality Review team included Dr. Zimmers, Patti Hammell (Director of Professional Development for Georgetown County, SC School District), Ellen Benton (Director of Elementary Education for Lenoir County Schools), Dr. Michael Perry (Assistant Superintendent of Richmond County Schools) and Dr. Annette Brown (Assistant Superintendent for Craven County Schools).

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.

According to the QAR team, Dr. Basham should receive a written report within 30 days of the visit. In two years the district will have to submit an online report and another review will take place in five years.