Accreditation team praises Livingston High School

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comApril 30, 2013 

A five-member visiting team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges wound up a four-day accreditation visit to Livingston High School, praising the school on several fronts and making some recommendations for improvement.

Principal Ralph Calderon was pleased with the outcome of the accreditation, which typically is good for six years with a midterm follow-up visit.

"We were really happy. I believe we did very well," Calderon said. "We were praised on how we link learning to everyday life. There were a number of things considered strengths. Mandy Ballenger, our associate principal for assessment and accountability, was the point person and did a tremendous job."

The WASC team led by Jim Bennett, a biology teacher at Lemoore Middle College High School, said Livingston High has a professional staff dedicated to helping all students achieve.

He said the campus is welcoming, available to parents and provides opportunities for support, with community members active and involved.

Team members also said the campus's tutorial and Wolfpack 9 intervention programs help students master difficult subjects and decrease the number of failing grades. The school has expanded course offerings and pathways to increase opportunities, the evaluators wrote.

Calderon said the team left a 150-page document as part of the accreditation. He said all of the staff participated in the review, praising Ballenger for compiling the report used during the accreditation.

Ballenger said staff members started the accreditation process in February 2012, ramping up their preparations about six months ago.

"It was a positive experience for us," Ballenger said. "They validated things we do well, and we agree with the findings on the things that need to be followed up on. The staff did a fabulous job preparing for this visit."

Tony Doyle, the school's teacher-librarian, said the WASC committee saw the school's strengths pretty clearly and did a good job of pointing the school in directions where improvements can be made.

A weekend of work

Accreditation team members started the process Saturday and spoke to school personnel Sunday, visited classrooms Monday and answered questions during their concluding presentation Tuesday, Calderon said.

He said Livingston High is trying to stay ahead of the curve on implementing common core instructional practices and was recognized for its efforts in targeting at-risk students.

The WASC committee said there is a need for greater inclusion of all stakeholders in decision-making processes, including an ongoing self-study process.

There is also a need for a broader, data-based effort to provide targeted interventions for all subgroups, including English learners, special education and migrant students.

Evaluators said the school should consider ways to include regular parent input in student course selection and development of the school's six-year plan.

Other WASC committee members included Visalia high school teacher Lawrence Jarocki, Gonzales High School Principal Barbara Lawrence-Emanuel, Bakersfield teacher Terri Richmond and Oscar Zagareta, a teacher at Roselawn Continuation High School in Turlock.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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