NEASC accreditation team starts East evaluation

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In a commitment to the community in providing an education that serves all students and meets set criteria, every ten years the high schools in Cranston go through a rigorous evaluation by NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges). It is a regional accrediting association which establishes standards for all levels of education.

The NEASC is a voluntary membership organization of more than 2,000 public schools, colleges, and universities, independent schools, and vocational, technical, and career institutions. Of these, over 630 secondary schools have been accredited through the Association’s Committee on Public Secondary Schools. The Committee works with individual public schools to improve the quality of education through a continuous process of accreditation and evaluation.

The three-day process involves a team comprised of 16 administrators and teachers from the New England area.

This year’s evaluation team is being chaired by Donald D. Gainey, EdD from NEASC, and assistant chair is Joseph Hurley Principal of Barrington High School.

Dr. Gainey, said, “Our purpose in visiting Cranston High School East is to assist the faculty in its pursuit of quality education for its students.”

The other committee members are Nicola Able, English teacher from Killingly High School, Dayville, Connecticut; Holly Adriano, World Language teacher at Griswold High School, Griswold, Connecticut; Karen Ballway, Science teacher, Auburn High School, Auburn, Massachusetts; Dan Blanchard, Social Studies teacher, New Britain High School, New Britain, Connecticut; Jacques Branchaud, Math teacher, Coventry High School, Coventry, Rhode Island; Adolfo Costa, Assistant Principal, Cumberland High School, Cumberland; Geraldine Dineen, Library Media specialist, RHAM High School, Hebron, Connecticut; Todd Grimes, Principal, Westerly High School, Westerly; Victoria Guthlein, Special Education teacher, Mt. Hope High School, Bristol, Rhode Island; Timothy Hayes, Social Studies teacher, Toll Gate High School, Warwick; Kristen Janko, Science teacher, East Boston High School, Somerville, Massachusetts, Peter Shanazu, Math teacher, Fairfield Warde High School, Fairfield, Connecticut; and Anne-Marie VanNieuwenhuize, Guidance Counselor, Lincoln High School, Lincoln, Rhode Island.

Principal Sean Kelly said, “The purpose of this accreditation visit is to review and determine from an outside professional viewpoint the extent to which the school is meeting the Standards for Accreditation. As part of the evaluation, the visiting committee will meet with all school constituents, review the school’s self-study, visit a number of classes, and examine examples of student work submitted by the school. During the comprehensive self-study, the faculty attempted to identify the school’s strengths and determined those areas in which changes would be beneficial.” Principal Kelly pointed out, “The members of the visiting committee are contributing their services to the school. This spirit of professional cooperation is one of the noted features of the New England Association. The goal of an accreditation visit is to stimulate a continuing drive for improvement in the school.” The coordinator of the evaluation for East is English teacher Andrea DiCicco. She actually started working on the NEASC process almost two years ago.

“I don't know if this is enough space to talk about the job that Andrea has done with this process. She has been amazing.  Organized, detail oriented, understanding, cooperative, accommodating, etc.  She was the right person for the job and has exceeded every expectation that I have had and then some,” said Kelly.

On Sunday, March 12, the evaluation team had breakout sessions with teachers and was escorted throughout East by cadets from the JROTC program. Fourteen students gave up their Sundays to be at the school, helping.

The East chamber choir and chorus also entertained the visitors and hosts throughout the day.

“Watching and listening to them perform, I couldn’t help but think what a beautiful mosaic they created,” said Gainey. 

DiCicco also was appreciative of all the faculty members who gave up their Sunday to be at school.

“It’s been a great turnout of teachers. They took teams around to their classrooms and shared their students’ work,” she said.

There are four students per grade that the committee members will be shadowing. They include; ninth graders; Daniel Cornelio, Courtney Holmes, Jacob King, Maria del Pilar and Antigua Brito.

Tenth graders are: Trinity Curran, Emma Boucher, Hector Martinez and Carlos Lourenco.

Joanna Wong, Ben Morris, Selena Kong and Anthony Florenz for the 11th graders.

The seniors are: Alexandra Greene, Megan Scarborough, William Rogers and Jose Germosen-Polanco.

At the reception on Sunday, Dr. Gaines addressed the faculty, administration and other support staff.

“This evaluation is actually Phase 2 of preparing for the process. It was all the work done over the past two years that have led up to today. After our visit, we will submit a draft report and turn it into Sean. From what I and the team have seen so far, you are well on your way,” he said.

After introducing all the visiting committee members, he reiterated that it is their job to be honest and inquisitive during their visit.

Several of the guests stated how warm and welcome everyone had made them feel, how appreciative they were of all the effort and a special out was given to the band and chorus.

Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse also gave praise to DiCicco and her hard work.

“I think Andrea is a tremendous asset to the district, especially Cranston East. I've known her since she was first hired as a new college graduate and she has been outstanding since the day she began. She is a smart woman who is a terrific writer, which is helpful when navigating the NEASC reports, process, etc. She is extremely hard working and she really takes pride in what she produces.  She understands the culture of East and the needs of its students, and seeks to make it the best high school in RI.

Her diligence and willingness to work on such a huge task speaks to her professionalism and true dedication to CHSE. Best of all, she hasn't stopped flashing her smile during this grueling process.

I respect the NEASC accreditation process, which includes more than just the visit. Looking at CHSE through the NEASC standards over the past 18 months allows the staff and central office to examine the school through a different lens. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on our needs and strengths. The NEASC organization provides a great deal of professional development, support and reinforcement of best practices. It's a valuable resource to our entire high school community,” she said.

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