BCS receives high marks

Published 8:31 pm Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Beaufort County Schools got high marks Wednesday from a team of education evaluators.

“There are lots of strengths in this school district,” said Lucille Wolfrey, the leader of an eight-member team of educators who evaluated the county’s public schools during a four-day visit this week. “I hope you all will realize the wonderful leadership team and wonderful teachers you have.”

The school system was rated “highly functional” on five of seven standards reviewed by representatives of AdvancED, an international school-accreditation firm. The system was given the second-best rating of “operational” on the remaining two standards by the team.

“It is a very good rating,” Wolfrey said, adding that the ratings earned by the school district were among the highest she has awarded.

The evaluators will recommend the system be reaccredited by the AdvancEd Accreditation Commission in June, she said.

Wolfrey presented a preliminary report of the team’s findings to members of the Beaufort County Board of Education and some two-dozen school administrators at a meeting Wednesday.

“We are very pleased,” said F. Mac Hodges, Beaufort County Board of Education chairman, after hearing the report. “It’s a testament to the staff of the schools here and their dedication and hard work on behalf of the board.”

BCS Superintendent Don Phipps agreed.

“It validates the things we’re trying to do,” he said.

The team of educators arrived in Washington on Sunday, and during their visit, which ended Wednesday, observed classrooms and talked with nearly 300 people, including school-board members, school administrators, teachers, staff members, parents and students.

The team’s visit is the culmination of a yearlong process by the school district of evaluating the way it educates its students as that education relates to AdvancEd standards.

AdvancED ranks school systems in seven categories — vision and purpose, leadership, teaching and learning, documenting and using results, resources and support systems, stakeholder communications and relationships and commitment to continuous improvement.

Schools may be rated as highly functional, operational, emerging or not evident.

In Wednesday’s preliminary report, the school system was praised for its “comprehensive commitment” to improving student performance and its “exceptional” and “timely” communication with the community.

In the report, Wolfrey also cited the BCS superintendent and leadership team as being strong leaders and praised the system for employing a grant-writer who has brought some $7 million in grants to the school district in the past nine years.

Wolfrey and the team identified some improvements the school district needs to make.

It needs to develop ways to “engage uninvolved parents in the education of their children,” Wolfrey said during the presentation.

Teachers need more grade-specific training in the use of technology and to better help students move from one school to another as they age. The district should “formalize and implement a clearly defined transition plan” for all its schools, she said.

Beaufort County’s public schools earned accreditation as a district for the first time in 2006. Before that, each school was evaluated individually, according to BCS officials.

AdvanceEd is an umbrella organization that oversees school accreditation in some 35 states. It includes the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement and, most recently, the Northwest Accreditation Commission.

A full report of the team’s findings will be presented to BCS in about 30 days.