Friday December 28, 2012

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Southwest Vermont Career Development Center received re-accreditation last month, along with an evaluation report with a number of commendations and recommendations for improvement.

The technical center's programs, policies, staff and administration were evaluated by a visiting team from New England Association of Schools and Colleges in March, and last month the NEASC Commission on Public Schools reviewed that team's report and granted re-accreditation.

The report states CDC met nearly all of the 167 recommendations from five years earlier, although it included six recommendations CDC did not address in a self-evaluation report. NEASC has asked CDC administration to work on and submit a progress report regarding those half dozen recommendations by March 1, 2013.

Among the findings in the NEASC report is a lack of trust within the school, likely due to repeated changes in the superintendent/director position in recent years.

"Numerous issues of trust and collegial working relationships between administration and other staff have not been adequately addressed because of the numerous leadership changes. School staff expresses a lack of clear meaningful decision-making paths that are dependable and open," the report states.

NEASC recommends Superintendent/Director James Culkeen, who was hired prior to last school year, make improvement of relationships and trust an "immediate priority.


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"The focused visiting team believes consistent leadership that values input from all levels of staff would change the school from a good school to a great school," the report states.

Along those lines, NEASC repeated a previous recommendation for the technical center to develop a school improvement plan with input from faculty, staff, the school board and the community. Such a plan would "increase communication and provide a road map to improve morale and enhance the goals of the CDC," it says.

Other recommendations are:

* Develop and implement a "New Staff Orientation Program" that includes a mentorship program. (This recommendation has been addressed as CDC has had a mentorship program for first- and second-year teachers for more than a year, according to Culkeen.)

* Remove all non-building trade related items from the Building Trades program.

* Establish school-wide grading and consequence policies.

* Review uniform policies in each program to ensure compliance with state and OSHA regulations.

* Ensure that data supports a decision to add or delete a program, and involve staff, community and business leaders in that decision.

In addition to recommendations, NEASC also gave a handful of commendations of things the technical center is doing well. Among the best assets at the technical center are the teachers. "The visiting committee found school staff to be competent, knowledgeable and dedicated to their school," the report states.

NEASC also noted a strong sense of school and community at CDC, which is heightened because of students' "obvious pride and exuberance of the CDC and what it has to offer them."

The report praises CDC for increasing enrollment over the past five years -- from 368 students to 425 -- and adding cosmetology and culinary arts over that time. The technical center also received praise for piloting a pre-law distance learning program that allows students from anywhere to enroll in the class and interact via the Internet.

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi