HOULTON, Maine — Twenty-six years after it was founded, Greater Houlton Christian Academy has been granted accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
The accreditation for the private, nondenominational Christian school is for a 10-year term.
“This is great news for us,” John Bishop, head of the school, said on Tuesday. “It comes as a result of a lot of hard work on behalf of the teachers, staff and everyone involved in the school. This process began in 2003 under the direction of Mark Jago [former head of school].”
Greater Houlton Christian Academy is the second Christian school in the state to become accredited. Bangor Christian School was the first one. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges is the nation’s oldest accrediting association and is the organization that accredits public and private schools in New England.
In 1984, County Road Baptist School, the forerunner to the academy, opened on County Road. The school became Greater Houlton Christian Academy in 1995, and in 1996 opened its doors at its current location on School Street. The preschool-through-grade-12 facility has an enrollment of about 190 students, according to its Web site.
Bishop said the academy’s board, staff and parents conducted a rigorous self-study last year of every aspect of the school’s program. The self-study then was validated in November by a visiting team of educators from the New England region involved in the accreditation process.
“The study involved many things,” he said. “They looked to make sure that everyone had a sense of the school’s mission, they looked to see that we had set everything up properly, and they looked at the competency of our teachers and staff.”
Accreditation can tell parents the school is meeting national standards and the teachers are trained properly. It also opens doors for academy students to access more federal loans, scholarships, postsecondary education and military programs that require regional accreditation. It also makes it easier for students to transfer to an-other school.
There are many things that make the academy special, according to Bishop.
“The teachers are dedicated. They are still in the building hours after the school closes, helping their students or working on their lessons,” he said. “They are hardworking, dedicated and they are here because they want to [be] and believe in our mission.”
The report commended Greater Houlton Christian Academy for success in areas such as the “dedicated, committed” faculty and the school’s “nurturing environment.” The school met all 14 standards.
Elementary teachers also were commended for use of writing portfolios and secondary teachers for the successful initiation of the one-to-one laptop initiative, which requires high school students to have their own laptops.
There also were suggestions made in the accreditation report, Bishop said. The report pointed out the need for the school to revisit its strategic plan to help guide future growth and to enhance the academic program by more clearly identifying the kinds of skills, academic content and higher-order thinking the school wants to see in its graduates.
The school also was encouraged to analyze its tuition and compensation practices.
“We realize that we need to focus more on finding the resources that we need to take our program to the next level,” said Bishop. “We need to do a better job of compensating our teachers and staff. The teachers here are making half of what they could get in the public schools. We also need to expand the number of course of-ferings we have here, and we’d like to start a chapter of the National Honor Society.”
“This school has done a great job of promoting its spiritual mission,” he continued. “But we need more opportunities for kids in terms of the academic side.”
The administration will be reporting to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in the future on its progress in addressing these and other recommendations.
Initiatives for school improvement are being developed and will be shared with the school community at its spring association meeting.