Southwest Vermont Career Development Center to undergo decennial re-accreditation

BENNINGTON — The staff of the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center have compiled and submitted a 160-page self-study report to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges as part of their decennial evaluation.

The report is a normal part of the re-accreditation process that occurs every ten years. A 13-member team from NEASC will visit the school in early November to follow up on and review the information in the report.

"The staff has worked very hard on a year-long self study," said Superintendent Michael Lawler, "a very long self-study, with new indicators and new standards that haven't been tried before. We're only the second school in New England to be tested against these standards. So, it is a stressful time."

Lawler said the report covers seven primary categories: core values and expectations; curriculum; instruction, assessment; culture and leadership; student services and support; and school finance and community relation.

"It's been a lot of work," he said. "We've certainly identified some things that we're strong in and things that we can work on, and that's what this is designed to do. It isn't a 'gotcha' moment."

"Accreditation is an expression of confidence in the institution's purposes, performances, and human and financial resources," explains the NEASC website. "The goals are effectiveness, improvement, and public assurance. Unlike popular magazines, this does not involve ranking institutions, but rather, establishes a level of acceptable quality for all accredited institutions while respecting the unique missions of the institutions involved."

NEASC last visited the school in 2012 for a fifth-year focused visit. The report issued by that committee commended the center on its "strong sense of school and community, the staff's ability to continue to provide an atmosphere of learning in challenging times, the student body's obvious pride and exuberance of the CDC and what it has to offer them, implementation of cosmetology and culinary arts programs, and developing and implementing the pilot distance learning program via the Pre-Law program."

The 2012 report was critical of the center's frequent leadership changes, notably three superintendent changes since 2007. When that report was issued Jim Culkeen had recently taken over as superintendent of the center. He is now the superintendent of the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, but that has been the only superintendent change in the last five years.

"The Focused Visiting Committee finds that numerous issues of trust and collegial working relationships between administration and other staff have not been adequately addressed because of the numerous leadership changes," reads the 2012 report. "School staff expresses a lack of clear meaningful decision-making paths that are dependable and open."

Lawler said that the center expects to see a preliminary report from NEASC in January, which will recommend the school's accreditation status.

"It's really important for our school to be accredited by a recognized institution," he said. "I want to thank all the faculty and staff who worked on that. We're almost done." The State of Vermont requires that technical centers be reviewed by an independent entity every five years, a requirement that is fulfilled by the NEASC evaluations.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB


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