DEXTER, Maine — Ten years ago, a visiting team from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges made more than 100 recommendations to be addressed by Dexter Regional High School for accreditation.
From the association’s most recent visit in April and its subsequent report, only about 25 recommendations were made, but the commendations were plentiful. That, say school officials, is a reflection of the work directors, administrators and the faculty have done over those 10 years to make the identified changes to continue the school’s accreditation.
“We’ve come a long ways,” Dexter Regional High School Principal Steve Bell said Monday of the recent report filed by a team of 15 evaluators. “I was proud more than anything.” He said the report was based on the four days the team spent in Dexter reviewing documents and meeting with administrators, students, parents and faculty.
The accreditation through NEASC, while costly, is important for the district and its students, Bell said. “Like any business or organization, it’s important to have an outside entity to come in and evaluate how you’re doing,” he said. It’s also important because colleges look for students who have graduated from accredited high schools.
The district had to include more than $20,000 in last year’s budget to cover the accreditation visit, according to Bell. In addition, the district pays yearly dues of about $2,000, so Bell figured that more than $40,000 has been spent for the accreditation process over a 10-year period.
He said he was encouraged by the reduced number of recommendations as well the commendations in the latest report. Those comments will help chart the course for the school for the next five to 10 years, he said.
“It points out very clearly the things that you need to work on and address as a school,” Bell said. He said the recommendations will be addressed in the school’s next five-year plan, which will begin this summer. “It helps us refocus a vision on what we need to do better.”
Some of the recommendations require funding, so directors will need to decide if the district can support the recommended changes, such as more supplies in the library and an upgrade to the Options program, the district’s alternative education program, according to Bell.
Among the commendations, the school was cited for its “well-developed” curriculum, which aligns student learning to the mission statement and academic expectations; for the opportunities it provides to students for extended learning; and the efforts of teachers to personalize instruction and engage students as self-directed learners.