Lake Region H.S. set to go under microscope

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

During his first year as principal, Erik Good really wanted to know what things Lake Region High School did well, and what things needed serious improvement.

All teachers and staff were called upon to paint an accurate picture of the school as part of a self-study.

Now, Good is asking his staff to once again be very frank as a team of evaluators descend upon LRHS for a three-plus day visit.

LRHS is up for New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation. School officials have already met the NEASC team leader and will host 12 visiting evaluators next week.

Founded in 1885, NEASC is the nation’s oldest accrediting association that is “characterized by a commitment to establishing and maintaining high standards for all levels of education.”

The 10-year accreditation cycle includes self-study, which engages the entire educational community in structured analysis, self-reflection and planning in response to the standards; peer review involving a visiting committee; and a followup, responding to findings by the visiting committee.

All aspects of the school are evaluated from core values, beliefs and learning expectations to curriculum and instruction to assessing student learning. The committee will speak with some staff, students, community members and school board members to gauge school culture and leadership, available resources for learning, and available community resources.

High school staff member Jamie Riel, who is the NEASC building co-chairman, recently gave school board members possible questions they could face from the visiting committee.

“We would like an honest accounting of who we are as a school and what we need to work on,” Good said. “One of the most important factors we’ve talked about as a staff, that at first we may feel this is a ‘gotcha’ experience. It’s really not.”

Good told directors that when it came time to select which students would be part of the interview process, he looked for a solid cross-section of LRHS’ student body.

While the school has made strides in some area, like finally building a bus garage, there are some areas that still need addressing, such as improvements to science labs, Good pointed out.

Superintendent of Schools Al Smith noted that the accreditation process is “not inexpensive.” In Maine, the price tag runs about $16,840. Smith pointed out that years ago, the visiting committee consisted of 24 people who stayed at a school for five days, which means school systems had to pay for housing and meals for that period of time. Now, the committee has been trimmed to 12 members, and the stay is shorter, about 3½ days.

Casco Director Stan Buchanan, who has had past experience with the accreditation process, said the committee is well-versed into seeing what appears to be window dressing to impress the visiting team versus what actually exists in a school on a daily basis.

Student representative to the SAD 61 Board, Mallory Strain, disagreed with Buchanan, feeling taking the “be up front” approach would be the best tact.

“I think it is a better idea to paint an honest picture,” she said.

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