COVENTRY — After years of anticipation, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) team has come and gone from Coventry High School.
School staff gathered in the auditorium Wednesday afternoon to hear the initial feedback from the NEASC visiting team, a group of eight teachers and administrators from across New England who were tasked with evaluating the high school for accreditation.
NEASC membership requires that schools undergo a rigorous self-study and formal evaluation once every 10 years. Preparation for this week’s visit by the accreditation team began two years ago with a self-study, during which the Coventry High School community met with NEASC faculty to identify areas that needed work.
While there is still room for improvement in a couple of those areas, the feedback visiting team chair Roberto Medic offered Wednesday was overwhelmingly positive.
As he shared with them his thoughts after spending three days at the school, Medic told those gathered that if the high school continues down the path it’s on, then “not only will Coventry High School set the bar for education in this community and state, but also regionally.”
Medic lauded the inclusivity that permeates the school’s culture, calling it “a central tenet to [the high school].” He said the students he spoke to described the environment at the high school as “warm and accepting.”
“When we walked in Monday morning, we got the feeling that this is a family,” said Medic, who works for Avon Public Schools in Connecticut. “Never once did any of us feel that we were in a school of about 1,500 kids.”
The NEASC team arrived in town Sunday for a visit that would last until after school on Wednesday. They were greeted by the entire school community during a Unified pep rally Monday morning. Red and white streamers and balloons adorned the gymnasium, as students in the bleachers cheered and held up signs for their peers on the basketball court.
“All of us have Unified sports at our school,” Medic said Wednesday. “No one has ever put Unified sports on a stage like you did, and we know that that wasn’t to show us a program — that was to show us your culture.”
In their conversations with students, Medic told the teachers gathered, the NEASC team was told repeatedly “that they love you.”
“And you guys expressed routinely to us that you love and care about them,” he continued. “And it’s genuine.”
He also recognized the collaborative efforts by school staff members to address the various needs of their students “to make sure that each one of them feels as though they are someone and that they matter.” Medic praised the support systems that have been established to help students deal with issues like substance abuse.
“You should be proud of the fact that caring for children is the most important thing in this school,” he continued.
The visiting team also appreciated the diversity of the high school’s academic offerings, Medic said, adding that the team members were “blown away” to learn that some 900 students haven taken at least one Career and Technical Education course in the last year.
“There is something for every student at Coventry High School,” Medic added.
While much of its feedback was positive, the visiting team also had a few recommendations.
One of the NEASC foundational elements states that all subjects should have a written curriculum. Though the visiting team is impressed by the multi-phase process to write curricula that’s currently underway, Medic said, the school will be rated as not having met the standard since they haven’t all been finalized.
“But we also will acknowledge the significant amount of work that’s gone in in a collaborative manner,” he said.
The building infrastructure, Medic added, also doesn’t meet the NEASC standard.
“Clearly there are inefficiencies in the infrastructure that do need to be addressed,” he said.
Alluding to the Necessity of School Construction process that the district has embarked on to renovate its outdated facilities, Medic said he hopes to see that process move forward.
Coventry High School Principal Brooke Macomber, who should receive the final NEASC report within a couple of months, said she agrees with the visiting team’s recommendations. And by taking those recommendations into account, Macomber added that she’s confident the school will continue to improve.
Before wrapping up his comments, Medic thanked Coventry High School teachers Julie Maccarone and Kristen Capwell for coordinating this week’s visit by the NEASC team.
Superintendent Craig Levis and Macomber both echoed that. Each also thanked the entire group of teachers for contributing daily to the culture of inclusivity that Medic had spoken about.
“They said they have not been in a building where kids are this respectful, and where faculty are this respectful and have such a great rapport with kids,” Macomber added. “I think that’s what we pride ourselves on, and it came shining through.”