May 11, 2005 – The first of four public high schools in the Virgin Islands celebrated Wednesday as officials received word that its status as an accredited high school had been restored. But the principal of the Charlotte Amalie High School said the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools had placed conditions on the re-accreditation.
Amid the jubilation, CAHS Principal Jeanette Smith said efforts will continue to make the changes recommended by Middle States. "Of course, everybody is elated. We are truly excited by the information, that good news we received. But as we think about the good news, we always add that we want everyone to understand the work continues."
One of the greatest reasons for good cheer is the timing of the announcement. Re-accreditation now means the graduating class of 2005 can claim that status as they march down the aisle at commencement ceremonies set for June 5.
The school's accreditation team put in extra effort with that goal in mind, Smith said.
"A few years ago, when we lost accreditation, we were given a timetable by which this accredited status could be regained. We made a commitment to speed up the pace of that timetable. We wanted to make sure that we would complete our self-study during the 2003-2004 school year and host that visiting team at the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year," Smith said.
The CAHS accreditation team spent two years trying to regain the national recognition that gives favored status to Charlotte Amalie students applying for admission to colleges and universities. After the site inspection by Middle States officials in October, high school administrators felt confident. A review by site inspectors found CAHS had met national standards as well as standards in areas of school curriculum and instruction.
The school was also commended for presenting an acceptable strategic plan for school improvement.
But as the principal said, there is still a long way to go.
The conditions set on re-accreditation begin with a three-year limited status. During that time, school officials must provide progress reports addressing continued deficiencies.
The factors that figured into the loss of accreditation — improving students' and teachers' attendance, building a pool of available substitute teachers and setting up site-based school management — are still on the improvement list. With renewed accreditation, high school officials are also being asked to reduce the drop-out rate among ninth graders, increase student achievement in reading and math for all grades, improve the process of teaching and learning and address deficiencies in the school buildings and grounds.
Members of the school's accreditation team — made up of administrators, parents and community and business leaders — are already working on a strategy to meet new short-term goals of planning, improvement and reporting.
"The strategy for some of that has already been laid out. We just need to make sure that we work every day, keeping in mind what our focus must be. This is something for all of us — for students, for parents, for the community, for the Department of Education, for the Government of the Virgin Islands, for the Legislature — we must work to maintain the accredited status we received," Smith said.
CAHS regained its status the same day that St. Croix Central High School began hosting a team from Middle States for its final site inspection.
Charlotte Amalie was the first school to undergo inspection, followed by the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas. Those three schools are seeking reaccreditation after losing their status in April 2002.
The St. Croix Educational Complex, which is seeking accreditation for the first time, completed its site inspection earlier this year.
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