SAIS Wants You!
Wednesday, October 05, 2016
By Christina Mimms, SAIS
The people behind an accreditation review perform highly valuable work for SAIS member schools. While the visiting team might make everyone on campus a little bit nervous, they also can commend a school for its many accomplishments, provide valuable insight and advice, and help a school to get on a path for future growth. People visiting from outside the school community offer a fresh perspective that schools undergoing accreditation truly enjoy and appreciate. The team members also gain ideas and typically enjoy the experience so much that they are eager to serve again. So how do you join an accreditation team?
SAIS performs about 90 school visits per year. Each member school undergoes reaccreditation every five years. About 130 administrators are qualified team chairs. A team usually consists of a chairperson and four administrators or faculty members from different schools, typically located outside of the city of the school undergoing review. Team members are vetted to ensure there is no conflict of interest with the school in question.
Serving on an accreditation team requires two days away from work and some preparation time. Team members receive documentation from the school they will review several weeks ahead of the visit.
Team members usually arrive at the destination on a Sunday afternoon for a meeting with their chair. Hotel accommodations and all meals are provided. The team travels to the campus of the school for a tour and dinner with the board of trustees, some administrators, and the accreditation steering committee. On Monday, team members meet with a parent group, alumni group, faculty groups, and student groups, and also visit as many classrooms as possible to observe learning in action. During the visit, they may have the opportunity to participate in a school event, such as an assembly or a chapel service. On Tuesday morning, they continue with group meetings and classroom visitations and then work on the official SAIS reports. As a group, they decide on commendations as well as recommendations for the school.
“I have always come away with good ideas to take home,” said Paula Gillispie, head of Oak Mountain Academy in Carrollton, GA. “I’ve never been on a school visit where I didn’t learn something. You come back a better educator than before.”
Indeed, throughout the classroom visits and many conversations with teachers and others in the school community, visiting team members may well learn about new programs or new methodology to try out at their home schools. The visit often can provide an inexpensive form of professional development.
While team members must arrange for classroom substitutes or move other work around in order to be on a visiting team, the benefits are great, both personally and professionally. “The opportunity to serve far outweighs the time it takes to prepare to go,” said Gillispie, who has worked on six accreditation teams, five of those as chair. “Once you’re there, you don’t even think about what you are missing at home. I would encourage everyone to serve.”
Being part of an accreditation team benefits an educator personally and professionally, but the experience also helps their own school. That person often will be asked to provide their expertise on the next steering committee, which is a positive professional recognition within their own community. “You may be able to help their school better when your reaccreditation comes back around,” said Joanne Andruscavage, SAIS director of accreditation. “Being on a team is a great way to return the service given to your school, and it’s a wonderful re-energizer for you and your school.”
If you would like to serve on a visiting team, contact Joanne at firstname.lastname@example.org or (678) 231-2908, or visit www.sais.org/SignMeUp to complete an online form.