By Dr. Bob Gillingham
Head of Lower School
We’ve come a long way…
Five decades of working at Parker have afforded me the long view of the School’s development, a beautiful growth over time that has allowed the School to become one of the premier educational institutions in California, if not the nation. Col. Francis Parker’s vision, now supported by the School’s succinct mission, is alive and well in a community that is thriving and helping to support students who will move beyond Parker with so much to offer the world they will inhabit.
During that same period of time, I’ve been witness to all of the School’s accreditation cycles, each of them involving the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). These cycles involve a year-long process called the “self-study,” during which the school responds to questions intended to determine how well the institution is meeting established standards in every aspect of its operations and governance.
The latest accreditation process began approximately 18 months ago and concluded earlier this month by the visit of a team of 10 independent school educators from a number of excellent California schools. Among them were heads of school, division heads, a CFO, teachers, and a diversity director. Their job involved visiting classrooms, speaking with representatives from every School constituency, and ultimately, verifying the self-study report we submitted ahead of their visit. If all goes well, they will agree upon a recommendation to the accreditation commission, the commission will confirm it, and we will be granted the full seven-year term in June when their report becomes available.
As a young teacher going through my first accreditation in 1983, I was only vaguely aware of what was happening. Somewhere a report was written, a very small team of educators visited, a few peered into my classroom, and the next thing I knew, we were all listening to their report on our School. During each subsequent accreditation cycle, the School has evolved, as has my knowledge and appreciation for the unique process.
For me, the most recent process was validation of the phenomenal growth of Parker during the last 40 years.
The visiting team was professional, collegial, and so very helpful in confirming the very goals we know to be important in Parker’s continuing growth and development. The self-study process involved every staff member at Parker with an emphasis on ensuring that everyone’s voice was represented. It was a very rewarding experience for everyone involved, and in the chair’s own words, they collectively wished they were able to send their own children to Parker. High praise indeed.
We won’t know until June just what term of accreditation comes our way, but in any case the process served us well in that it drew our JK-12 staff closer together, it shone a bright light on what we’re doing well and what we can do to improve, and it illustrated just how valuable the collaborative process is to the success of a wonderful school that’s only going to get better at meeting the needs of its students and school community.