Barnwell 45 to undergo another accreditation

After their first-ever district accreditation by AdvancEd this year, Barnwell District 45 will soon have another accreditation visit.
Crystal Stephens, the district's curriculum director, said the S.C. Department of Education is bringing back their accreditation process for schools and districts after ending it several years ago. Both the district office and Guinyard-Butler Middle School will be visited by an accreditation team January 15 and 10, respectively.
While a request to substitute their AdvancEd accreditation for the state one was denied, Stephens said this one will still be helpful.
"It will give us strengths and weaknesses we can build upon," she told the board during their regular Dec. 13 meeting.
Unlike the AdvancEd process, which Stephens said was "much more extensive," the state visit will only be one day looking at data and paperwork. It will also focus more on state regulations specific to South Carolina, whereas AdvancEd is an international accrediting body.
Stephens said the team will look at the compliance of District 45 and GBMS to those state regulations. They will be evaluated on a list of standards.
On the district level, the team will see whether the superintendent has completed a professional development plan annually, a record of student dropouts is maintained, and if student assessment results are given to parents. Meanwhile, the GBMS accreditation team will look to see teachers are properly certified, there are programs for talented and gifted, and a sufficient staff development plan is in place.
The findings of the state accreditation will be addressed in District 45's strategic (district-level) and school renewal plans.
Stephens said the school renewal plans, which are on a five-year cycle, focus on student achievement, teacher/administrator quality, and school climate. "They guide the day-to-day operations in school," she said.
To make sure these plans accurately fit the schools' needs, they are updated annually. Updated plans will be submitted to the board in March for their approval after staff meet to discuss weaknesses and strategies to improve.
"We want to make sure there is consistency across the school district," said Stephens. "Our number one goal is student achievement."
Though there is always work to be done, Stephens said she is "very happy with path we're on now."
In other news:
- Three trumpet players from the Barnwell High School Scarlet Knights band put the board in the Christmas mood with two songs - "Carol of the Bells" and "Jingle Bells."
"You sounded fantastic," said board member Rhett Richardson to the band members.
Robert Stannard, the band director, said they've had a good year and are working to grow the program. "We want the band to go back to being something the community is proud of," he said.
- In a written report, Coreen Parler-Myers, the director of the alternative school, updated the board on her school's year.
She said they currently have 11 high school students and eight middle school students. She said two from the high school could transition back to Barnwell High in January if they meet the requirements. Likewise, two students could return to the middle school, while two more may join the alternative school.