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Accreditation and strategic planning go hand-in-hand

Accreditation and strategic planning go hand-in-hand for Gaston County Schools

With the accreditation process complete and all schools earning the prestigious “quality school” distinction, Gaston County Schools is working on its strategic plan for the next five years.

The 2019-2024 Strategic Plan will take effect July 1; it is being finalized now and will be presented to the Board of Education for consideration and approval.  The plan outlines the school district’s guiding principles for the next five years and includes the vision, mission, and goals.

Accreditation and strategic planning go hand-in-hand.  Both processes happen every five years and serve as a time for evaluation, reflection, and looking ahead.  Accreditation is a year-long, comprehensive effort that culminates with a team of educators visiting the district to observe, evaluate, interview stakeholders, collect data, and ultimately determine whether to grant accreditation.  Once accreditation is complete, strategic planning begins.

Accreditation is conducted by AdvancED, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts rigorous, on-site reviews of more than 36,000 educational institutions and systems in the United States and 70 countries.  The evaluation team visited Gaston County Schools in February 2018.  Following the visit, the team spent several months completing its evaluation and determining areas of strengths and what the district should do to fulfill its commitment to continuous improvement.  

The evaluation team made a recommendation to grant full accreditation to Gaston County Schools as a district as well as accreditation for each of the district’s 55 schools.  The accreditation is valid until 2023 when the review process happens again.

Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker stated, “The accreditation team used a rating system that evaluated various areas as either exceeds expectations, meets expectations, emerging, or needs improvement.  We had 10 areas to exceed expectations, 15 areas to meet expectations, six areas that were emerging, and no areas in need of improvement – this is an outstanding accomplishment for Gaston County Schools.”  

Here are five highlights from the accreditation team’s review:

▪ The team acknowledged the district’s culture of engagement and shared decision-making efforts as well as school leaders’ commitment to collaboration and focusing on students’ needs.

▪ During visits to schools, the team saw well-managed classrooms with well-behaved students who were supported by a caring staff.  They characterized the schools as “very safe and conducive to learning.”

▪ The team commended the district’s progress in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and were impressed by the number of students who have earned CTE credentials, commenting that the district is “empowering our graduates.”

▪ The team was pleased to see how the district invests in its employees and the educational services provided for children.  They believe the expansion of school choice options will give students an opportunity to “find what they like, and it will help them to thrive.”

▪ The team members complimented Gaston County Schools for maintaining a sense of neighborhood pride and a commitment to community-based schools.

With accreditation complete, school and district leaders began the strategic planning process last fall.  Strategic planning involved evaluating the district’s current vision, mission, and goals and working with various stakeholder groups (students, parents, employees, business/community partners, etc.) to gather feedback about priorities for the next five years.  The draft plan includes four overarching goals.

Dr. Booker added, “Moving forward, we will continue to provide a safe school environment for students and employees, work to ensure that our graduates are ready for college and careers, employ a qualified workforce that is dedicated to the education of children, and use innovative practices to give our students a dynamic and challenging educational experience.”

Click here to view the draft of the Gaston County Schools Strategic Plan 2019-2024.

Click the video below to watch our Gaston County Schools Accreditation Presentation that was recorded for Channel 21, our education station on Spectrum Cable.