Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

December 20, 2012

AHS needs to be more personal

Accreditation: Activism, teaching, food are strengths

By Dustin Luca
Staff Writer

---- — The preliminary indication from the high school’s reaccreditation is that the school does a great job with its 82-minute blocks and lunch offerings, but needs to reduce class sizes and connect more personally with all students.

It could be around three months before the high school learns specifically how it fared in its reaccreditation, but early snippets of feedback show both areas of success and concern for the overcrowded school, according to comments from Principal Chris Lord.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges completed its review of the school last week, a review that occurs every 10 years.

The full report is still being written and won’t be available until March. But early feedback from the visiting NEASC team praises the school for its use of 82-minute blocks, how involved students are with high school programs and the passion that high school staff exhibited in the classroom, said Lord.

Once the school receives the report, they have 60 days to release it to the public, according to Janet Allison, director of NEASC’s Commission on Public Schools.

The team also praised the school for having “the best cafeteria food that their team has ever seen,” Lord said.

On the other side of the coin, the school needs to do more to “personalize the building” for its present student body, according to Lord.

“Every student in the building needs to be well known by one adult other than a guidance counselor,” Lord said.

Through that effort, students would become more connected with the school’s culture and, at the very least, have an adult to go to when one is needed, according to Lord.

Class sizes are also a concern that must be addressed, according to Lord. That issue goes hand in hand with personalizing the school.

Through the limited feedback he’s received so far, Lord predicted that the school will receive reaccreditation, but it will need to complete a few minor prerequisites within a certain amount of time.

Schools seeking reaccreditation typically see one of four outcomes. Either they get full reaccreditation, they get reaccreditation pending correction of some minor issues, they’re on warning for several issues or they’re put on probation and fail to receive reaccreditation.

“This school has been on warning for several years now. I hope to get us off that,” Lord said. “We’re probably in the second level, maybe lower. What we need to do is personalization, and that’s a major thing the school is lacking.”

The school was slated for its reaccreditation visit in October, but the arrival of Hurricane Sandy forced the school to reschedule the visit.

For feedback or questions on this story, email dluca@andovertownsman.com or call 978-978-2410.