South Fork High School Gets High Marks From WASC Committee

The WASC visiting committee reviewed their recent findings at South Fork High School. Committee members from left are Laurel Hill-Ward, superintendent and principal of Elk Creek Junior-Senior High School; Ryan Robison, superintendent and principal of Sutter Union High School; and Dr. Debra Burgess, English language specialist and retired associate director, Butte County Office of Education. (Sandy Feretto)

The WASC visiting committee reviewed their recent findings at South Fork High School. Committee members from left are Laurel Hill-Ward, superintendent and principal of Elk Creek Junior-Senior High School; Ryan Robison, superintendent and principal of Sutter Union High School; and Dr. Debra Burgess, English language specialist and retired associate director, Butte County Office of Education. (Sandy Feretto)

The state’s Department of Education accrediting commission for schools, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), gave South Fork High School a positive report after a review in April.

The WASC visiting committee members met with about 25 students, teachers, and members of the public in the library at South Fork High School on April 27 to give the results of their evaluation of the latest self-study report for the school.

The WASC accreditation process involves many steps in an ongoing process designed to lead to school systematic improvement and renewal, according to WASC information. WASC accreditation addresses standards in five categories. A WASC committee visits participating school sites periodically to note progress in areas identified in previous visits, and make recommendations for areas of improvement. South Fork had been studied first in 2010, with a revisit in 2012, a review in 2013, and follow-up review in 2014, according to the April report.

South Fork social science teacher Brice Gummersall, who was the coordinator for the most recent WASC visit and review, explained that he had been hired by the district to write the report in collaboration with others at the school. He said that the meeting that day followed three days of WASC committee visits onsite to verify the self-study report by talking to students, staff, and focus groups.

Categories examined by WASC included organization, standards-based curriculum, instruction, school culture, and support. Every aspect in each category was examined and remarked upon in the lengthy report.

The WASC visiting committee was chaired by Ryan Robison, superintendent/principal of Sutter Union High School, with committee members Dr. Debra Burgess, and Laurel Hill-Ward, school administrators from districts in Northern California.

Robison opened the meeting by introducing the recent draft self-study report that he said would be complete when the updated action plan section was written. He noted that the leadership team would continue to work with the visiting committee to complete the action plan portion of the report.

The WASC visiting committee members went over their evaluations of the report by categories, focusing on strengths and key issues for improvement.

The WASC committee members reported they found the facilities at South Fork much improved, and recommended continued plans for upgrades of the gym, music room, cafeteria, and technology.

Dr. Burgess noted improvements in areas of administration and counseling services for students, and praised the improvements in the school environment and culture.

“All stakeholders have an ownership in the learning community environment and culture that’s based on relationships and trust. I think that’s very strong, and prevalent throughout,” said Dr. Burgess. The team praised South Fork High School for all the technology that had been adopted and recommended more technology and more technology training for staff.

The committee found the curriculum aligned with Common Core Standards and noted the need for all textbooks to be aligned with Common Core Standards.

Committee members noted improvements in the facilities, technology, administration, curriculum, safety and cleanliness, and student support services.

Robison acknowledged the broad base of support from the communities for co-curricular and extracurricular activities.

Critical Areas for Follow-Up

“We’ve got three items here,” Robison said in summarizing the critical areas for follow up. “For those of you who have been through the WASC process this is a testament to the hard work you’ve put on. Over last six-year cycle you’re just finishing you’ve addressed your seven that we had before. You’ve got it whittled down to three ongoing and that is a great job.”

He recommended the creation of a formal long range staff development plan with ongoing staff development that integrates assessment, instructional practices and curriculum development to support Common Core Standards and complies with other required programs, so that learning standard outcomes are all wrapped together.

The second identified need was to increase access to updated textbooks across the curriculum and supplemental teaching materials aligned with Common Core Standards.

The committee’s third recommendation was to increase access to support for A-G classes (formerly called college prep classes), career and technical education exposure, and to offer opportunities for remediation during school and after school.

“This is a very small list and knowing the collective energy we have in this room, and in this community, we have no doubt that you’re going to be successful,” Robison concluded.

Scott said she was thrilled with the positive report and thanked the students, staff, and especially Gummersall for their hard work. She acknowledged all the work done in the three years since the last visit by WASC to address the issues that had been identified.

At the end of the meeting Scott introduced Jeff Landry, the new principal for South Fork High School, Miranda Junior High, and Osprey Learning Center.