'It's like taking Taft High apart and inspecting it,' superintendent says


This week is a big one for Taft Union High School.

The campus is hosting a visiting team of educators from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges who will get a first-hand look as part of the accreditation process.

The school took the first step last month when a detailed self-study was completed and sent to the accrediting team as a preview for the visit.

“It’s going to be a big week for Taft High,” Supt./Principal Dr. Mark Richardson told his Board of Trustees  last week  at its monthly meeting.

“On Sunday, the accrediting team will arrive at 3:00.  We’ll give them a tour of the campus, and they will meet with the leadership team.  They’ll be here Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.”

The team will meet with and ask questions of the various campus constituencies based on the self-study.

Wendy Berry and Debra Popejoy coordinated the self-study, which they reviewed for the board last month.

“They spent a tremendous amount of time with this document,” Richardson said.  “It’s a very data-driven project.”

Berry and Popejoy were charged with examining the school’s performance since the last self-study and site visit six years ago, collect data and interview administrators, teachers, staff and students.

“Dealing with a bunch of people like that is a lot like herding cats,” Richardson said.  “They’re good cat-herders.”

Popejoy likened the process to a restaurant inspection and receiving a grade.

“It’s essentially taking every part of Taft High School and inspecting it,” she said.

Berry gave the board a brief overview.

“It’s very data-heavy,” she said.  “The departments had to analyze their scores from the past four years.”

She said results and recommendations from the last report were compared to the actions the school took.

“Some of them we actually followed through with.  Some of the others we went in a different direction.”

The self-study examined the school’s vision and purpose, governance, leadership and staff, resources, curriculum, instruction, assessment and accountability, school culture and support for students’ personal and academic growth.

It offers an action plan based on a study of all the data collected.

“They (visiting team) are essentially looking at validating what we do,” Popejoy said.

The self-study effort also produced a set of “Cat Skills” the school wants students to have.

They are:

Skilled communicator
Critical thinker and problem-solver
Independent collaborative worker
Technologically skilled worker
Socially responsible community member