Christian Academy renews accreditation

By Patricia Ann Speelman - [email protected]

SIDNEY — Christian Academy Schools in Sidney has received accreditation by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and expects approval by the end of the month by AdvancED, a consortium that includes the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement.

AdvancEd reviews public, private and charter schools nationwide.

ACSI accredits schools for up to five years, and the local academy received its imprimatur for the full five years.

It took a year and a half for school officials to prepare for the evaluation by ACSI.

“They look through every facet of the school system: curriculum, staff, teachers, meeting state regulations for safety and environment, financial records, board policy and development,” said Superintendent Mary Smith.

Smith and former teacher Lynne Pappenfuss oversaw the reporting project. The school established five teams to complete a self-analysis based on an ACSI-supplied manual. The teams had to document everything in the analysis.

“‘You’re telling us you’re good. Show us. Prove it to us,’” Academy Board of Directors President Todd Miller, of Sidney, said, in quoting ACSI. The teams, comprising board members, parents, teachers and others, had to do a lot of research to fill out the reports.

“We learned a lot through the process that we weren’t aware was happening. It was good for us to go through that process,” said Cathy Clayton, of Sidney. Clayton is treasurer of the board.

ACSI surveyed stakeholders from throughout the community.

In addition to an academic review, ACSI focuses on character and spiritual values in the teaching and learning process, said Clayton.

Besides supplying the self-assessment, the school had to pass an onsite inspection.

From Nov. 30 through Dec. 2, a four-person ACSI team visited the school. The week before, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the school’s offsite server went down and school officials lost all the information they had ready to present. Because it was a holiday weekend, finding someone to fix the server was difficult, making for some tense moments in the final rush to prepare everything for the reviewers.

“There were some anxious moments,” Clayton said.

“We had a man named Ray and Don Southam, our offsite IT guy. They got it up and going, and (the ACSI team) had no idea (it had happened),” Smith said.

While they were in Sidney, the reviewers “interviewed parents and students on every level,” Smith said. “They looked at student test scores and how scores are driving decision-making within the school.” They talked with teachers, visited classrooms and talked with administrators.

“Maintaining a level of quality, a level of excellence — that’s what they’re looking for,” Miller said. ACSI also expects to see evidence of continuous improvement, so, according to Smith, Christian Academy can’t now just rest on its laurels.

“We’ll go through this in five years and they’ll want to know what we’ve done. This is something that continually pushes us to be better, to stay on our toes,” Miller added.

Clayton noted that teachers must be certified and the review of curriculum is an ongoing process, not something that is looked at only for accreditation. If a weak area is found, it’s changed immediately to ensure that students are always learning at the level that’s needed.

Miller said receiving the five-year accreditation by an assessor who reviews schools worldwide may mean more to the community than it does even to the school.

“It means that there’s a Christian education alternative that’s available to our community that’s been verified to meet the highest standards,” he said. “The ultimate impact is the impact you have on the world through your students. It’s nice to have the verification that you’re doing things well.”

By Patricia Ann Speelman

[email protected]

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.