As an independent college-preparatory school, it is crucial for Maclay to receive feedback and stay recognized. From Oct. 10 to Oct. 12, Maclay went through “accreditation,” a process in which independent schools are evaluated by a larger association to make sure that they are meeting the standard of their body. As a part of Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS) and Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS), Maclay has to go through this same process every five years. The guests from FCIS and SAIS include heads of schools or divisions, directors or classroom teachers from other schools usually throughout the state. This year, Maclay’s administration team, seventh grade physics teacher Michael Fisher and Director of Center for Academic Excellence Janine Couch coordinated the event.
Before the guests visited the campus, the administrators and accreditation team were required to complete a huge self-study. They were given a set of questions that they had to answer with evidence of the indicators. When the actual visiting process took place on campus, the guests were paying attention to those indicators, ensuring what was written on paper was actually being done. The accreditation team provided the guests with an outline of the campus, allowing them to freely walk around and observe the school.
“It felt great,” Upper School Director Charles Beamer said. “I love to show others our fabulous teachers and students, how we do education, and the wonderful facilities we have to collaborate in. When visitors leave our campus, they know why we are the best independent school in North Florida.”
In addition to evaluating the campus, the visitors also had a chance to go into the classrooms and see Maclay’s classroom environment. Both in classrooms and hallways, they talked to some of the teachers and students, assessing several aspects of student life.
“For me, the minute we walked on campus it was just a happy spirit and smiling children and the enthusiasm that they had with their engagement with whatever they were doing,” Head of School at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School Jan Pullen said. “I did go into a first grade class. They were studying all things hurricane, which we just have experienced. The students were trying to create something that looked like a hurricane, and everyone was excited about it, and that’s when you know learning is happening. It’s the engagement.”
Not only did the guests ensure that the school meets the expectations, but they also looked at areas of improvement as well. Once the visit and report is finished, the Maclay’s school administration team will receive a list of growth factors and future plans for them. Therefore, the process serves as an opportunity of self-evaluation and a baseline for future improvement.
“I think it [accreditation] is important as it shows just how good our campus is to others, and it also shows where we can improve in certain areas,” sophomore Olivia Collins said.