Accreditation committee urges focus on increased diversity, public purpose

By Daniel Rothberg

A committee of California educators recommended that the school increase diversity and advance its “public purpose” at a faculty and staff meeting in Saperstein Theater Feb. 16. Over the course of their four-day visit, the committee completed an accreditation report for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges/California Association for Independent Schools. At the meeting, visiting committee members read selections from their report, including commendations and recommendations for different aspects of the school.

Middle school students were dismissed early to accommodate the meeting, which began at 3:30 p.m.

 “[The meeting] is for the visiting committee to verbally let faculty and staff know what they found and what they recommend after studying the self-study and doing a physical evaluation,” Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra said.

The committee urged the school to focus on increasing diversity through enrollment. They said that the school should also provide the “human infrastructure” to support a more diverse student body. Currently, 61 percent of students are white. The committee said that increasing diversity would expose students to different experiences and outlooks, something invaluable for a learning environment.

In order to advance its public purpose, the committee said that the school should expand its “service endeavors” and develop partnerships with local schools.

Other recommendations included examining the role of parents in the college admissions process and the role of stress in student life, especially during junior year. On several occasions, the visiting committee recommended that the school upgrade visual arts facilities in Reynolds Hall when fiscally feasible.

The committee applauded the Board of Trustees and several administrators, including President Thomas Hudnut and Head of Campus Operations JD DeMatte, for completing the Middle School Modernization project without incurring any debt.

Overall, the committee was impressed by what they had observed during their visit.

“We look forward to enjoying from afar the great success of this remarkable school,” Benjamin Williams IV said after the report was read to faculty.

The committee based much of its report on information in the school’s 250-page self-study, which was submitted for the accreditation process at the end of last year. Using information in the self-study, the visiting committee began writing its report prior to its visit, Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts said.

“They’ve written some of the report already because so much of what we want to say about our school is already contained in the self-study,” Huybrechts said. “In a big, complicated school like this, even with eight mem bers of a team, it would be very difficult for them to learn everything about the school in just a four-day period.”

The remainder of the visiting committee’s report was written during their visit.

The committee read a preliminary report to the administration at 10 a.m., before reading selections from the report at the faculty and staff meeting.

During their visit, the committee toured both the upper and middle school campuses. They attended a mid dle school assembly and met with administrators, department heads, trust ees and students.

“They’re here to review what we are doing, how we are doing it and come up with recommendations at the end of their stay here,” Salamandra said.

The committee members include Christopher Blair, upper school head at Castilleja School in Palo Alto; Edward Chen, technology director at The Nueva School in Hillsborough; Vicki K. Dickenson, a former counselor, San Diego, representing WASC; Cynthia Ellis, Middle School Division Head at The Harker School in San Jose; Susie Maga, athletic director at St. Mar garet’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano; Susan Munn, director of finance and operations at The Urban School of San Francisco in San Francisco; Tigress Osborn, diversity direc tor at The College Preparatory School in Oakland; and Williams, headmaster of Cate School in Carpinteria.

There are several types of accreditation that the school could receive. Salamandra believes the school has always received a six-year accreditation in the past 30 years.

The school will be notified about the terms of their CAIS/WASC accreditation later this year, middle school history teacher and accreditation leader John Corsello said.