Old Orchard Beach High School has been reaccredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. CIERRA ALBERT/Journal Tribune

Old Orchard Beach High School has been reaccredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. CIERRA ALBERT/Journal Tribune

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Every 10 years, high schools and colleges are revisited to make sure education offered and common core standards are met.

Schools work very hard to make sure everything’s in tip-top shape for the group of New England Association of Schools and Colleges members coming to visit.

Without being accredited, a school is not considered a quality learning institution and that can greatly impact the students and the community around them. Old Orchard Beach High School is one of the many schools to earn reaccreditation this past November, but their work is not complete just yet.

John Suttie, Old Orchard Beach High School principal and RSU 23 superintendent, along with other school staff members, has been awaiting this moment.

For the past few years, the school system has worked to restructure staff, change and add higher-level courses, change the structure of the curriculum by adding new requirements to graduate, and add a statement of Core Values and Beliefs to the school code, along with “Guiding Principles.” These are just some of the major improvements that took place before the NEASC committee visited Old Orchard Beach.  

One of the new changes added to the school has many very impressed with all of the staff’s hard work. This addition requires students to complete a 40-hour internship of their choice in order to graduate.

Suttie said this will be very beneficial to students because it helps them to gain experience in the workforce and serves as an opportunity to work in an occupation that may be considering.

It also can lessen the risk that students will have to change majors throughout college because they already have had experience in the occupation they want to go into, he said.

Amanda Partridge is one of the members of the steering committee that helped facilitate getting everything ready for the visiting NEASC committee. She was also chairperson of a committee focused on school culture and leadership.

“The planning process was stressful, and when we started in the summer, we sort of had to play catch up, and do some final planning. There was a lot of behind the scenes work to make it comfortable for the visiting committee,” Partridge said. “Things that you would never really think of, and then organizing all of the data and information from the teachers was also stressful.

“I was really glad that I was on that committee because it was a learning opportunity and when it got done, I think we did a really good job,” she said. “Anything that helped to make things run smoother than it possibly could’ve is that we were able to be proactive and answer the questions that the committee may have had. I know a lot of visiting committee members were thankful for how organized it was, and that definitely paid off.”

Old Orchard Beach High School students also helped in the accreditation process.

When the NEASC committee arrived, some students had been assigned to have a committee member shadow them during their day at school.

“It’s a crucial integral part of the accreditation process to get information from all of your stakeholders,” Partridge said. “Our kids were one of them, so it was necessary for them to be a part of the process.”

The school’s staff  now has to develop a two- and five-year plan as to how they are going to approach the recommendations made by the NEASC Association. In fact, the staff has already looked at each department’s curriculum to make changes.

Becoming accredited is very important for a small-town school because it shows the community that they need to support the high school and the importance of having one, Suttie said. 

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