Superintendent of Schools Kathryn LeRoy Tuesday took the first steps to getting the entire Polk County School System accredited, not just the county’s high schools.
Some Polk School Board members balked at the $90,000 plus or minus annual cost, but left LeRoy’s suggestion on the table until February when it will decide yea or nay after she brings them more definitive costs and further defines the process.
LeRoy tied the accreditation to her Strategic Plan which the board adopted several months ago which is supposed to steer the school system through the next five years.
“It behooves us to do this based on the strategic plan,” LeRoy said. “It’s time to move to this district-wide accreditation.”
The action, should the board OK it, would put pending accreditation of some county high schools on hold, but that wouldn’t affect their standing or their students qualifications, LeRoy added.
She told the board that 41 of the state’s 67 county school districts were accredited.
“In the I-4 corridor, Polk, Seminole and Hillsborough are the only counties that are not.”
LeRoy explained that accreditation would give the system additional credibility with the communities it serves and continue to help college-bound students in their application process.
“Colleges look better at students from accredited systems,” she said. “That shows they are fully prepared.”
Board Member Hugh Berryman asked if the county received district accreditation if it would help obtain grant funds for various programs.
“It most definitely would,” LeRoy said.
“But the main thing is that it would give us additional trust in the community and validation that we are a good school district and we’re doing what our students need,” she said. “It also means we have a state-of-the-art management process that supports the schools the way they should be supported.”
Presently, according to the superintendent, the district spends $33,000 to $40,000 annually to keep its high schools accredited.
“I believe it would cost us about $92,000 a year for five years to do the entire district,” she said.
She explained that it was a multi-year process where experts in educational processes come to the district and examine its processes and procedures from A to Z.
Board Member Kay Fields asked if it would require hiring additional staff.
“No, it would not require additional staff,” LeRoy replied. “It will be additional duties for staff that will pick up what’s being done by the schools now. That will give them more time to serve their students.”
Leroy also explained that the process would require input from the school administrators and teachers as well as the communities, but the “heavy lifting will be done by the district.”
LeRoy maintained that the accreditation would assure that the system maintains and communicates at all levels “a purpose and direction for continuous improvement that commit to high expectations for learning; governance and leadership that promote and support student performance; curriculum, instructional design and assessment practices that guide and ensure teacher effectiveness; and that the system has resources and provides services in all schools that support its purpose and direction to ensure student success.”
“Having the district take on a task that has been onerous for schools is good,” said Board Member Tim Harris, “That’s a positive. The negative is the additional cost.”
After the board deferred action, LeRoy closed the discussion saying, “I will do some additional homework to bring back to you at the February meeting a more detailed briefing. I’d like to have a review before the end of the school year so we can start this process at the first of next year.”