As the accreditation process wound down Wednesday at Merced High School, a team of visiting educators praised the campus for its teacher cooperation, safe and clean environment and innovative programs.
The panel recommended communication between the school and its parents, as well as several other areas, be improved.
The six-member team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges spent 3½ days at Merced High, spending about 10 minutes in each of the 93 classrooms and meeting with parents, students, focus groups and teachers.
WASC team leader Shelly Moreira, a resource specialist at Lincoln High School in Stockton, recapped the 44-page report evaluators prepared as part of the accreditation process. This is her 14th accreditation visit.
"There are a lot of things going on at this school," Moreira said. "We were impressed; you're doing a good job. The students here are so cool; we felt at home."
The length of a WASC accreditation typically is six years. The term of Merced High's latest accreditation won't be known until the evaluators' report is reviewed.
Principal John Olson said what was clear through the WASC visit was the dedication of the school's teachers and the relationships that have been built.
"It's so positive; just a different feeling," Olson said. "What we will work on is increasing communication with all stakeholders."
Clovis educator Scott Pickle said Merced High has solid collaboration within departments. He recommended teachers take additional technology training outside the school day.
More electives recommended
Jason Reimann, an Oakland high school principal, recommended Merced High provide more elective, or optional, classes and increase chances for students to use the AVID college-preparation program.
Reimann also advocated more cooperation among academic departments and increased parental use of the ARIES online grading system by upgrading information more often.
Roberta Gleeson, a retired Elk Grove school librarian, said teachers regularly deliver technology-enhanced lessons. She said a wide array of course offerings allow students of varying academic abilities to experience success.
Tom Wortham, a retired business teacher from Pacific Grove, told Merced High teachers the school needs to facilitate better communication with students and parents and get more feedback from both on the effectiveness of their education.
"There probably are a thousand parents wanting to be part of this educational experience," Wortham said.
Moreira, who will recommend the length of the next accreditation after reviewing the school's response to its action plan, said that on a scale of 1 to 10, the team gave the school a 7.9 ranking on the level of engagement of students.
Kae Cameron, a Spanish teacher at Lincoln High, said the WASC team was impressed with the cleanliness of the Merced High campus and the politeness of students.
"The teachers are very dedicated to supporting student needs," Cameron said.
Merced High's use of community resources such as UC Merced academic tutors, parents and guest speakers, and its early intervention program to help poorly performing students were lauded.
Moreira said the school needs to improve communication and involvement of all stakeholders and the school decision-making process needs to be more collaborative.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.