The Effingham County School System is preparing to host an important visit.
A team of six education leaders from throughout the Southeast will review Effingham schools on behalf of AdvancED, the organization that oversees school accreditation. The team will visit Effingham school campuses and interview board of education members during its four-day visit that starts Sunday.
The team will present its findings and make its recommendation at a called school board meeting Feb. 11 at 2 p.m.
“It’ll be a big deal,” said Greg Arnsdorff, assistant superintendent for the Effingham County School System. “We’re in pretty good shape. I think we’re ready.”
This will be AdvancED’s second visit to Effingham since accreditation was changed to system-wide rather than for each individual school. The process is conducted every five years, and Effingham is due for an external review after being accredited by AdvancED in 2010.
“It is a critical eye — not just to what’s going well, but things we need to focus on to do better,” Arnsdorff said.
The Effingham County School System will be evaluated on five standards — purpose and direction, governance and leadership, teaching and assessing for learning, resources and support systems, and using results for continuous improvement.
Effingham school officials conducted their own review of the district based on those five standards. The AdvancED team will compare its findings to the district’s self-evaluation.
“The six people that will be on our team will sit down and individually score all of those indicators just like we did,” Arnsdorff said. “Then they’re going to come to the board office and hear us talk about it. It’s going to be about, why did we score it that way and what was our evidence that lends us to believe that we’re correct in that score?”
Governance and leadership was the category the school system scored highest on in the internal review, according to Arnsdorff. The system earned high marks for measures such as having an established code of ethics, maintaining appropriate authority by the superintendent and school board, and being transparent with stakeholders and media.
Arndsdorff found that encouraging considering “99.8 percent of the reports to AdvancED to investigate were about boards of education who went outside of their authority,” he said. “That’s the majority of what AdvancED does, is deal with errant boards doing things.”
Effingham school officials also will tout student success, such as the county surpassing the state’s average scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, State End-of-Course Tests and Fifth-Grade Writing Assessment. Effingham ranked 17th out of 197 districts statewide on the 2013-14 College and Career-Ready Performance Index, and the county’s graduation rate of 83 percent is well above the Georgia average of 72.5 percent.
Those factors and others, Arnsdorff said, indicate that the Effingham County School System is nearing its goal of being ranked among the top 15 percent of school districts in the state.
“We’re not worried about being the best in the southeast region of Georgia,” he said. “We want to be the best in our state.”
The board of education will be split up for interviews with the AdvancED team. Troy Alford and Beth Helmly will be interviewed together, as will Vickie Decker and Robert Grant, while BoE Chairman Lamar Allen will be interviewed separately.
“They recommended that they wanted to speak to the chairman by themselves,” Arnsdorff said. “What the team wants, the team gets.”
School system accreditation
For more information about AdvancED or the school accreditation process, visit the Web site www.advanc-ed.org.