It’s an event that has taken nearly two years of preparation and has involved the time and dedication of every member of the Cranston High School West school staff.
The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) visiting team of 16 educators from across New England arrived at Cranston High School West for a four-day visit on Sunday, and were greeted by many from the Cranston community, including Mayor Allan Fung, members of the school committee, superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse and members of the central office staff, CHSW administration, faculty and staff, as well as parents and community partners.
The visit is the culminating event in what has been nearly two years of self-study, evidence-gathering, and reporting in order to be ready for the week of interviews with parents, students, staff and administration, the shadowing of students and touring of the campus, as well as a final report presentation later in the week by the visiting team which will cite the school’s strengths as well as target areas for improvement in a two and five-year plan.
The school band, members of various athletic teams, academic clubs and the Falconette and Westernette dance and flag teams welcomed guests to the one-hour presentation held in the school’s newly renovated Alumni Auditorium on Sunday. The Cranston JROTC Color Guard posted the colors while Nancy Houde and Isabella Lepre led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. The “Star Spangled Banner” was performed by the CHSW chamber choir.
A theatrical production of “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” was presented while a slideshow played simultaneously, showing the many different ways in which the CHSW shows their spirit and community activism, both on campus and off.
Principal Thomas Barbieri welcomed guests to the presentation and thanked the guests for coming. He praised his students, faculty, staff, and administration for their hard work, calling his staff the thread of the educational community at Cranston West. He singled out and praised steering committee chair Christine Baum for her work leading the school through the process when recognizing the steering committee.
“What you will see here today is a testament to our mission to core values and beliefs,” he said. “Our actions will speak louder than our words. This newly renovated auditorium, for instance, is itself a monument to the spirit and pride of our school community, which reaches back to its inception.” He noted that the accreditation process is not something that can begin and end in just one day and that it was a meaningful process designed to validate the teaching and learning that takes place each day, also helping to illuminate a path toward the future for improvement.
The panel presentations began with faculty member Evan Lancia, and students Constantine Coclin, Rachel DeBlasio and Allison Yang, speaking about the vision, mission, and core values upheld by Cranston High School West, and how they affect the lives of students each and every day throughout their education.
As part of the school’s mission statement, it is stated that the students do not all arrive in the same manner, but yet arrive at the same place, where their path to success is limitless. Each of the students described where they came from, whether it was a public or private middle school, in Cranston or in one of the seven other cities from which CHSW has enrolled students this year, and how despite their different paths to West, they each had an individual, successful experience through a variety of school activities and classes.
As each presentation took place throughout the hour, staff and students relayed their successes and experiences at Cranston West.
The chairs of each learning standard reported out their findings and ratings for each of the seven areas studied during the self-study period, which will be explored in depth by the visiting team. The seven standards are core values, beliefs and learning expectations, curriculum, instruction, assessment of and for student learning, school culture and leadership, school resources for learning, and community resources for learning. Each standard was rated “acceptable” by each committee.
“You have heard who we are, you have heard what we do, what we expect and how we attempt to measure these expectations,” said Barbieri as the standards presentations wrapped up. “So where do we go from here, and how do we address moving forward in this ever-changing educational climate. One issue that we and every school probably face is how do we address getting students and teachers ready for a mid-century digital workforce while attempting to do so in a building built in 1958. This leads me to think about how teachers and school communities who have tried to transition from a one-room schoolhouse educating a small few, to new technology with instant communication, teaching with personal devices, wireless everything, and cell phones, cell phones, cell phones, and an ever adaptable student body who is more adept at this technology than we will ever be.”
He emphasized that students are expected to work collaboratively, communicate, think critically, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and problem solve.
“These are attributes that students have had to navigate for centuries. However, our students must do this in real time in complex situations that involve a technical component,” Barbieri said. “Our teachers are expected to navigate this reality and we are attempting to do so in the same reality of a school constructed in 1958. Technology and retrofitting to meet these needs is something we’re attempting to address daily.”
Barbieri spoke of key topics addressed regularly, such as professional development, curriculum changes, and changes to physical space in the classroom setting that are part of the work being done to meet the needs of 21st-century learners and their needs for the future.
“Are we perfect? No, but do we see where we need to go and how to get there? I and our faculty would say yes,” he said.
He introduced faculty members Stephanie Kaffenberger, English department chair, and Christine Matson, mathematics department chair, co-chairs of the school improvement plan, who concluded the presentation by speaking to the school improvement plan and targeted two and five-year plans that will be embarked upon beginning at the conclusion of the team’s visit and address what has been determined to be the most critical needs.
“Critical need number one focuses on rectifying building structural and physical challenges, in order to better support the delivery of curriculum, student needs, and support services. Critical need number two focuses on aligning instruction and assessment language to the 21st-century skills,” Kaffenberger stated.
Critical need number three was covered by Matson.
“Critical need number three is to include and increase skills-based and cross-disciplinary opportunities for students. Critical need number four is to refine processes for analyzing student data to improve instructional practices. This is integrated into our school improvement plan to maximize student proficiency in literacy and in math. During your visit, I am confident that you will see proof of all of our strengths, which exponentially exceed our critical need. The sense of community at West is unparalleled and community is an integral part of our school.”
The chair of the visiting team, Dr. Donald Gainey introduced the other members of the visiting team before the panel presentation event concluded.
A preliminary report will be presented on Wednesday.