May 14, 2014WHITEFIELD — The report of the 16-member visiting Committee of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), all of whom spent four days from Oct. 20 to 23, 2013, at WMRHS learning its ins and outs, was released on Monday. Paul MacMillan of Conway chaired the visiting committee, and Alan Smith of Littleton served as its assistant chairman. Committee members shadowed students, met faculty, roamed the corridors and spent time in classrooms, interviewed faculty, administrators, guidance counselors, and custodians, and attended a community reception.
The 75-page report, designed to assess the quality of the educational program, is part of the ongoing process that takes place over a 10-year cycle, explained principal Mike Berry at a noontime press conference that included assistant superintendent for curriculum Dr. Melissa Keenan.
"This is a living document, one that represents a 10-year process and not a report that is done once every 10 years," the principal explained.
Back in 2004, concerns about the Standards on Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment of Student Learning as well as on Leadership and Organization resulted in the school being placed on "warning" for shortfall in the two areas that had to be — and were — corrected over five years.
Later this month, a follow-up evaluation letter synopsizing commendations in the four Teaching and Learning Standards plus in the three Support of Teaching and Learning Standards that provide the report's framework as well as an outline of what the committee sees as the high school's most pressing problems will be in his hands, Berry said.
"I don't anticipate any warnings this time around," the principal said. "I believe that we did a good job on the self-study, including on the evidence that we used to back up our own assessment," Berry said. "The self-study affirmed the on-site observations that the visiting committee made, giving us overall credibility."
The steering committee effort was led in the first year by social studies teacher Jon Dugan-Henriksen, and hospitality and business teacher Lisa Perras joined him in the second year as co-chair.
The process began before then-principal Erik Anderson unexpectedly accepted the principalship of the Gloucester (Mass.) High School.
"There was very good 'buy-in' from faculty and staff," he said.
Now the commendations — and especially the recommendations — will be examined closely under a seven-person in-house committee. Five members — Berry, assistant principal Mike Curtis, CTE Director Perras, social studies teacher Patsy Ainsworth and math teacher Jeannine Labounty — have already agreed to serve, and two more members will be appointed, one to serve as chairman.
Working with our mission statement has led us to reducing it from a paragraph to a single sentence: "The WMRHS community is committed to establishing and maintaining high standards for all members to achieve, and strives to provide a school culture and climate where caring, respect, collaboration, accountability are the norms." Berry said that he looks forward to seeing this statement influencing the mission statements adopted by the other District schools.
The heart of the report is contained in the seven-page commendations and recommendations. Berry highlighted those he believes are most significant, noting that none — neither the pluses nor the needs to improve — were a surprise.
The principal attributes the range and number of commendations to the professionalism and collegiality that now characterizes the faculty and staff, and he said he looks forward to working together on implementing the report's recommendations.
Both he and Keenan noted that the District has taken the lead in adopting the state's Core Curriculum, increasing the number of Advanced Placement classes from three to 10, and preparing students for the 21st century, in which the speed of communication and the spread of rapidly changing technology has transformed the global economy is one that is highly competitive.
As he looked over the report once again, Berry proudly pointed out that WMRHS is a good solid high school in northern New Hampshire that is small enough to be able to provide individual attention to its at-risk students, to those not living up to their potential, and to those with unusual or unique talents and strengths.