Accreditation team praises local system

Blount County schools

Blount County school board president Andy Neill (right) chats with visiting accreditation team members Dr. Olivia Hodges and Dr. Maurice Persall.

Blount County school board president Andy Neill (right) chats with visiting accreditation team members Dr. Olivia Hodges and Dr. Maurice Persall.

“This gives us assurance that what we are doing meets the students’ needs,” said Blount County Superintendent of Education Jim Carr, upon learning that his system would be recommended for district accreditation.

“This proves to us,” he added, “that we are heading in the right direction and providing quality education for our students. Achieving this goal was possible due to dedication and hard work by our students, parents, community supporters, teachers, administrations, and staffs.”

The visiting accreditation team spent three days touring eight of the Blount County system’s campuses. Schools surveyed were Appalachian, Hayden, and Susan Moore high schools, Cleveland, Locust Fork, and Southeastern elementary schools, Hayden Middle School, Blount County Career Tech Center, and Blount County Multi-Needs Center.

School visits consisted of facility inspections and interviews with students, teachers, administrators, and community/school stakeholders. The interviews focused on the seven standards of advanced education: vision and purpose, governance and leadership, teaching and learning, documenting and using results, resource and support systems, stakeholder communications and relationships, and commitment to continuous improvement.

In all, 246 interviews were conducted, of which 113 were with parents, community members, and students.

Dr. Olivia Hodges, chair of the quality assurance team that visited the system, said this was the largest number of interviews she had ever done on a visit.

The visiting accreditation team identified several strengths of the system:

•support of the Blount County Education Foundation through its projects, especially the classroom grant program;

•teachers of the system; •schools as the “hub” of the community;

•financial soundness of the district;

•dedication to increasing the graduation rate and the results achieved;

•and support of the superintendent and system staff to the schools.

Graduation rate improves

The most recent graduation rate figures were noted by the visiting team.

The Blount County system average showed an increase over the previous year’s numbers and now stands at the highest rate ever – 83 percent. By comparison, the system’s graduation rate was 71 percent in 2005.

In addition, Hayden High School is the first school in the system to meet the state goal of 90 percent graduation rate. Cleveland High School is just off the mark at 89 percent and Appalachian has increased to 86 percent. J.B. Pennington High is now up to 81 percent.

Final report due

The Blount County system will receive the visiting team’s final report sometime in the next 30 days but the system has already begun work on one of the recommendations that the team made.

The No. 1 recommendation made by the team was for the system to maintain the great academic progress being made in the face of the challenge of proration and budget cuts and not let the financial challenges keep the district from continuing to progress.

“I agree that this is a tremendous challenge and I am committed to continue providing the highest quality education possible to our students,” said Carr.