On Wednesday and Thursday, the 17th and the 18th of April, City and Country had some important visitors. A committee from the New York State Association of Independent Schools, also known as NYSAIS, came to update the accreditation of the School.
Every ten years NYSAIS comes to a school to do a full accreditation. According to Scott Moran, Principal, the process for getting accredited is a “huge thing.” Scott said that “the report is usually a couple of hundred pages, and it’s a study of the school.”
C&C had its full accreditation five years ago, but “since ten years is such a long period of time, there’s a check-in in the middle of the ten years.” The people from NYSAIS came for this check-in, which follows a slightly different procedure than the one used for the full accreditation.
For the check-in, Scott wrote a report with help from the people who are in charge of the information going into the report. (See Roof Yard Rattler, Issue 7, “NYSAIS Will Visit” by Mia Rutkovsky.) At around 40 pages long, the report is shorter than the full accreditation report.
According to Scott, this check-in report focuses on “recommendations the NYSAIS people made in the ten-year evaluation, but mostly on the finances of the school, and the governance of the school, and any major changes that have happened.… They’re looking for things … that can have a really quick and negative effect on a school.”
One of the challenges in writing the report was keeping it clear and not boring. This year Scott asked people in charge of sections to send him bullet-points, and he turned the bullet-points into paragraphs. This new strategy meant that this year’s report “flowed better and was easier to read.” In fact, the report was so well done that upon the visitors’ arrival, Scott was complimented.
Three people from NYSAIS read the report and came to visit. Meg Taylor, Chair of the current committee, was also the Chair five years ago. According to Scott, she was formerly the head of a school outside of Albany. Within the last five years, however, she has retired and moved to Florida. Even so, she was nice enough to fly up for the inspection.
Accompanying her were Amanda Pike, the Lower School Director at the Berkeley Carroll School, and Matthew Bloom, the Business Manager and CFO at West Side Montessori School. Matthew was the one to check on finances, while Amanda checked on the administration as well as any recommendations that had to do with curriculum.
Since their last visit, there have been various changes at C&C, including the arrival of Scott as our new Principal. We also have a new Director of Finance and Operations, Mindy Schefen. The fact that both of these major positions changed is highly unusual, so NYSAIS took a particular interest in the transition.
The creation of an endowment in 2014 is another change that the NYSAIS committee had recommended five years ago. The endowment has helped to make the school more financially stable.
Another recommendation from NYSAIS was that the school step up as a leader in progressive education. Scott explained, “We’re the original progressive school in New York City.… an international leader in progressive education.” But he said that we could do more to fulfill that role. Scott added, “Quietly, we have people from all over the world who study our school and then take that information back to their country.… a significant number of schools, for instance, in Reykjavik, model their preschool on our preschool. But people don’t know that.”
So NYSAIS suggested that City and Country show what the school does to influence education. One way the school has worked to meet this goal is by hosting a weekend block conference for public school teachers and administrators, led by Jane Clarke, the Director of the Lower School. This conference was filmed and is currently being turned into a video showing the before, during and after of the conference. The video ends with the public school teachers showing what they learned. According to Scott, “That’s the kind of thing they want us to do.” They want us to not only do conferences, but also to “create something we can share and lets people know what we’re doing.” Although the conference and the upcoming conference video is a great start, Scott imagines that NYSAIS will want us to do more work like that. Of course, Scott and the rest of the school will not know whether the accreditation gets renewed until about mid-May. The visitors from NYSAIS will submit their own report, which serves as a response to Scott’s report. That report will be passed on to the accreditation commissioners at NYSAIS and will be read by two readers. These readers will meet with Meg Taylor, the Chair of the visiting committee, to clarify questions they have. Afterwards, the readers will present it to the rest of the accreditation commissioners board, who will make a recommendation to the NYSAIS board, who will determine if the school’s accreditation gets renewed. Scott believes we will be in good shape, and that NYSAIS was impressed with the work the school has done. But there is no telling until mid-May.