High school survey seeks community review of education


What do Islanders think about the education their children get at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School?

As part of a three-year accreditation process that began this school year, a team of faculty members and administrators at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) will ask that question and others of the Island community.

School officials would like as many Islanders as possible to take an online survey (available at http://tinyurl.com/2dkmlgd) that will be available today through December 23.

Every 10 years, MVRHS and other schools across the six New England states seek accreditation through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). The regional high school’s accreditation is up for renewal in 2013.

The NEASC provides accreditation services for more than 2,000 public and private institutions in the six-state region, from pre-kindergarten through university, according to its website. Accreditation is an ongoing process of school improvement that occurs in cycles, with schools working throughout the ten-year cycle to address standards for accreditation.

Last week MVRHS principal Stephen Nixon and members of the school’s NEASC steering committee met with The Times to talk about the online survey and the accreditation process.

When asked why it is important, Mr. Nixon said, “You have to be accredited in order to give out a diploma.”

The high school’s NEASC steering committee includes science department head Elliott Bennett; SPED teacher Kim Garrison; interim assistant principal Matt Malowski; and art department head Paul Brissette. Technology director Woody Filley provides technical assistance. Mr. Brissette was unable to attend last week’s meeting.

Mr. Nixon and four steering committee members attended a NEASC conference last May to kick off the process, which usually begins with examining the school’s mission statement.

At some point during the accreditation process, a 12- to 15-member team will visit the high school for several days. Among the different categories they measure, community is a big component, Mr. Nixon said.

“And one of the things they reinforce is that when you’re looking at things like what the school’s goals are, what we hope to achieve, what we want our graduates to look like, the community has just as much input into those things as we do, because we are a reflection of the community and we’re trying to prepare our kids to eventually serve within this community,” he added. “We have to know the community’s needs in order to do that. And the community needs to know our kids to see how they’ll fit in with their community. So it’s a reciprocal agreement.”

Comment from the community provides important feedback for the school’s staff and administrators, Mr. Nixon said, and an opportunity to find out how the public perceives the job they are doing.

“Because if we feel we’re accomplishing something and the public doesn’t, or we’re not accomplishing something and the public doesn’t know about it — either way, we’ve got to fix those things,” Mr. Nixon said. “So it’s very important for the public to get involved and give us their viewpoint.”

It doesn’t matter whether or not a person has a child that attends or has attended Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools, Mr. Nixon said.

“You’re still a taxpayer, so it doesn’t stop you from having an opinion as to what the finished product looks like here,” he said.

The finished product is someone prepared for future life, Mr. Nixon added. “We have to make sure that our view of a prepared child as they’re walking out the door is the same as what the community expects,” he said.