WESTFIELD – The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) Commission on Technical and Career Institutions voted in favor of continuing Westfield Vocational Technical High School (WVTHS) accreditation last week.
Though the accreditation process is voluntary, schools that seek it are required to submit a self-study and participate in an on-site visit. WVTHS completed the self-evaluation and submitted it in June 2014, and the NEASC Visiting Committee spent two and a half days on campus in October 2014.
Principal Stefan Czaporowski said the accreditation helps drive student interest in the school.
“If your school is accredited it certainly makes it more attractive for students to attend it,” Czaporowski said. “If we didn’t have it, I could see people not coming here.”
Once the committee voted on the status of WVTHS, a report with commendations and recommendations was made public, and Czaporowski said he was pleased with the feedback the school received.
The report noted the “busy atmosphere” of the school and the “general feeling of student and staff optimism … the students and staff are truly happy.”
Czaporowski, finishing his third year as principal, said there has been a dramatic upswing in MCAS test scores, environment and public visibility. In a recent meeting with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Czaporowski said they went over the data, and though WVTHS is currently a Level 3 school, the last two years show progress.
“When they decide your school’s level, they take your last five years,” Czaporowski said. “Well, if you take the data from that last two years from this school, we’re actually a Level 1 school.”
NEASC commended the school’s “can-do attitude,” and although it did make recommendations in terms of academic programming, extracurricular activities and the school’s facilities, Czaporowski said they are mostly things the school has already begun working on or has plans to do so.
The lengthiest list of recommendations was in regards to the physical facility and campus.
“A lot of these things are things that we have actually been able to take care of, but at the same time there are 47 so we have to look at that,” he said.
Schools that choose to be accredited must go through the full process every 10 years, but there are follow-ups as soon as two years later. Schools must show they have addressed or started to fix the recommendations.
Overall, however, Czaporowski said he is happy with the report, including suggestions that NEASC has made.
“We can’t make that stuff up. That is what they observed here. We didn’t prep the kids or anything. It’s just business as usual because we actually want the feedback and know what we can improve on.”
Part of the success, he said, has been listening to what needs improvements, as well as creating a supporting environment. According to the report, “the improvement in overall leadership and school-wide vision” has been crucial.
“It’s really, really important to support your staff, and if you support them, they support you and they support the students and what’s going on in the building,” he said. “I think that leadership has been important, and not only from the principal’s office. In every shop you have lead teachers who have wanted to raise the level of expectations for their kids … It’s hard to establish a vision and a mission to move forward with when you have a new principal every other year.”