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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

WASC team visits school

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As part of a regular accreditation process, a five-person committee of educators representing the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) visited the school from April 28-30 to ensure that it is “an acceptable level of quality” and is demonstrating continual improvement. 
According to committee member Michelle Seijas, principal of Woodland High School near Sacramento, the team focuses on five main areas of a school: vision and mission, instruction, curriculum, school climate and assessment. 
“The goal of the team is to learn about what [the school] is doing so we can validate the awesome things we see,” she said. “If we see anything [needing improvement], we can generate ideas to take it to the next level.” 
Seijas is in charge of assessing the school’s instruction with a focus on the English department. During her visit, she visited most of the English classrooms, including that of English 10 and 11 Honors teacher Amy Keys and her student teacher Lauren Zachmeier. She also looked in on the music department, ceramics classes and the MAP program. 
Assistant principal Kevin Mount and math teacher Audrey Warmuth headed the WASC effort this year. With help from teachers, administration, parents and a student group, Mount and Warmuth helped to compile evidence to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the school. The process began last spring.  
“Every Wednesday morning, from September to the end of November, a select group of students would meet with parents, teachers and administrators,” student focus group leader senior Jennie Werner said. “It was really interesting to hear teacher perspectives on issues on campus because we never really get to engage in this type of conversation with then.”
All ideas from the meetings were combined into a single report.
Recently, the school administration sent these documents to the WASC visitation team. The visitation team evaluated the school based on the documents and their own observations.
“I showed the WASC representatives around the school on Sunday afternoon,” Werner said.  “Not only was is really fun to brag about our students and our accomplishments, but it was interesting to hear the kind of questions they asked and the criteria they use to evaluate us.”
If the school does not pass the WASC process, Seijas said, the school will lose the ability to issue valid diplomas. This, however, is a rare occurrence because WASC committees who evaluate a school and find it unsatisfactory work with it to come up with a plan for improvement, and then come back periodically to ensure it is making process. 
Saratoga High is unlikely to have to undergo this. A high-performing school like SHS usually receives a full accreditation.  
“Saratoga’s pretty awesome,” Seijas said during the first day of her visit. “I’m happy to be here.” 
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