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Jackson County schools to keep accreditation; challenges remain
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JEFFERSON -- Schoolteachers and administrators in Jackson County schools can breathe a little easier now that the eight-member quality assurance team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has said it will recommend that the system remain accredited.

At a called meeting on Wednesday, quality assurance team Chairman Jerry Boyd addressed the board of education and several school principals and administrators to discuss the team's findings.

The common theme throughout the findings was the school system's dedication to holding students to high standards and working as a cohesive unit toward living out the system's mission statement.

After noting both the district's strengths and its weaknesses, Boyd told the board that his team would finish its report to AdvancED, the parent organization for SACS, and that the system should hear from them after 30 days.

"You guys can take a deep breath now," Boyd said jokingly.

The team visited eight schools, interviewed staff members and looked through the school system's records as part of the process. It used three main guidelines in its analysis of the system: the schools' adherence to AdvancED standards, their engagement in continuous growth and their participation in quality assurance reviews, both internally and externally conducted.

"We're gauging the extent to which you meet those three criteria, and our main role really is to validate, as well," Boyd said.

In terms of strengths, the quality assurance team was complimentary of the district's "common commitment to consistently raising the level of achievement of all students," and the quality of leadership found in all levels of the school system.

Boyd also spoke highly of the system's use of technology, communication with parents and support of new teachers as they get accustomed to their new role.

"The reality is you should be commended for the staff you have," he said.

The school system is not without its challenges, though. Boyd said the school system should strive toward a 100 percent graduation rate and should try to engage the hard-to-reach sections of the community. He recommended that the school system prepare a vertically aligned framework for dealing with at-risk students, involving teachers from all grade levels working together to address those in danger of dropping out of school.

Boyd also noted the district has been doing a good job of keeping the community informed, but it's a matter of maintaining that communication, he said.

"Sustaining that energy and focus is a challenge. You're doing great things, but there's a human factor. You have to continue to drive forward," he said.

Following the presentation, Superintendent Shannon Adams said he was pleased with the team's findings and was proud of the school system's achievements.

"I could not ask for a better recommendation," he said.

The administrators present commended April Howard, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, on her efforts throughout the process, though Howard herself said the positive report had more to do with the teachers than her own effort.

"I am humbled," she said. "I learn from you (the teachers) each and every day, and I thank you."


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