TUSCUMBIA — The Tuscumbia school district's officials this week received a much anticipated letter declaring the school system is no longer at "accredited warned" status, and is now fully accredited.
The letter by AdvancED, the accrediting arm of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, is the result of the AdvancED monitoring review team's visit in May 2012.
The school system will not be reviewed again until 2014.
"It's a relief, to say the least," Tuscumbia Superintendent Mary Kate Smith said. "This is our first full accreditation since the (districtwide accreditation) process began."
The system was originally accredited only partially in 2009 when it first went through what, was then, the new district accreditation. The status assigned after that review was "accredited advised" meaning there were areas that needed work during the following two years.
The school system sent regular progress reports on those areas throughout that two-year period. The evaluation team determined after a follow-up meeting in December 2011, that the status was "accredited warned." Among other problems, the evaluators found the school board guilty of micro-management and lacking transparency. They also expressed concern that the district was operating under an outdated policy manual.
With more work to be done, including revamping the district's policy manual that had not been updated since 1988, the team revisited the district last May. Once again, the system moved to "accredited advised" status.
School district officials submitted a narrative summary of the steps taken to complete the AdvancED review team's requirements for improvement.
Since that time, AdvancED has reviewed the district's report acknowledging the policy manual revision, the implementation of a board member training program, a new board evaluation process, efforts to focus board agendas on student achievement and implementation of systemwide communications.
"We've been working on this for right at a year and we've truly done everything we knew to do," Smith said. "The policy manual was a big deal for (AdvancED) and rightly so. We'd been operating under it since 1988.
"Also, we'd not involved our stakeholders to the extent we should have. Now, we have a community advisory committee that's active and engaged, and that's been one of the most positive things our system has done. Now we can move forward and go about the business of making our school system better."
In the letter received this week, AdvancED officials state, "In recognition of the progress made to date, the AdvancED Accreditation Commission affirmed February 26 that Tuscumbia City Schools will be placed in the accreditation status of Accredited."
The letter went on to state that, "The school district's leaders are to be commended for this progress, but should also remain diligent in their continued efforts regarding governance, training and communications to ensure sustained progress in these areas."
Board member Steve Carpenter said the "accredited" status says to the community that the school system is solid and competitive.
"Now, all we have to do is teach kids," he said.
Carpenter said most people in the community have put the past in the past and "they're seeing that we're responding to what they ask of us and to what the district needs."
Board member Mark McIlwain said the accreditation status shows that when schools work together, great things can be achieved in public education.
"Because of the dedicated faculty, good students, an engaged community, able administrators, a cooperative board of education and a superintendent who places the interest of students first, Tuscumbia City Schools are making progress," he said.
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.