Accreditors ensure that Marian is evolving, improving, flourishing

By Maria Determan ’18

Students may have heard the term “accreditation” floating around among teachers and administrators in the last month or so. More likely than not, students have questioned, “What is accreditation exactly?”

Accreditation can be likened to a final examination of the administrative world, the big test for teachers and students alike. Accreditation occurs every five years when AdvancED, an international, non-profit and non-partisan organization, observes the ways in which an educational institution is run. 

AdvancED is the largest organization of its kind in the entire world. The accreditation process is extremely helpful when a place like Marian seeks a professional opinion from individuals who are not regularly affiliated with this school. “It is a big deal for a school to say that this particular organization has given us their approval,” English teacher Ms. Susie Sisson said. 

This is a chance for the administrators of other local institutions to share their feedback with Marian. For Marian’s accreditation, AdvancED professionals were a collection of administrators from Gretna Public Schools, St. Mary’s of Bellevue, St. Bernadette and St. Stephen the Martyr. 

This group of accreditors took to the halls, classrooms and even lunch tables of Marian April 9 and 10 to uncover the answer to the burning question on the administration’s mind: Will Marian be accredited for the next five years?

Some students may recall the lengthy AdvancED survey sent out last spring about how Marian is doing both in and out of the classroom. This was one of the very first steps of the accreditation process. First semester, Principal Susie Sullivan presented the results to the student body in an assembly. 

While the four accreditors are in the building for the official two-day observation, they “look at leadership capacity, learning capacity and resource capacity. Underneath these things there are standards you have to meet. They tell you what standards you are doing well on and what you have to work on,” Sullivan said. 

AdvancED will send the official report 30-45 days after the observation period. In this report they will give Marian a set of powerful practices (things Marian is already doing well), areas of improvement (things Marian started, and should continue improving), and improvement priority (something Marian needs to focus on). 

“They did 192 interviews between students, parents, faculty and 20 observations of classes,” Sullivan explained. 

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Accreditating Team Betsy Harding from St. Bernadette, Trish Wallinger from St. Mary’s of Bellevue, Roseanne Williby from St. Stephen the Martyr and Violet Glasshoff from Gretna Public Schools ask questions to Marian students on April 10. The accreditation team interviewed students, parents, faculty and staff to get a holistic view of what Marian is all about. 

“They really noticed how our students were advocates for our school. They said it was heartwarming to hear the stories that the girls said about Marian and the faculty,” Sullivan said. 

Sullivan was also proud that students recognized the hard work of the faculty, “They work their tails off,” she said. 

Sisson was one faculty member who truly worked her tail off for the accreditation process. “Ms. Sisson was invaluable. Not one detail was left unturned,” Sullivan said. This is her 24th year at Marian, so she has experienced the accreditation process many times before. 

Sisson had no doubt that Marian would be accredited; she is a seasoned professional in the accreditation world. This year, she took on the duty of organizing emails, meetings and paperwork for these two intense days of observation and interviews. 

Sisson was tasked with describing every single aspect of Marian in a few pages. If you tried, could you describe every single aspect of Marian in a few pages? She formulated this report for AdvancEd to explain the progress Marian has made over the last couple of years, as well as the school’s main educational priorities. 

The project “was time consuming,” Sisson admitted. She spent hours on the task, and “wanted it to be well-crafted,” Sisson explained. 

Though this process may seem tedious for some, Sisson has embraced accreditation. “It’s a lot of work. I like it actually, I think it is very interesting,” Sisson said. 

Not only did Sisson dedicate hours to Marian’s process, but she donates her time to allow other schools to have this same stamp of approval from AdvancED. Sisson received training in accreditation and is now actively involved in the accreditation of other schools in the metropolitan area. “I love going to other schools. I’ve done visits at Skutt and Duchesne,” Sisson said.

Both Sullivan and Sisson agree that they are glad that the tedious process is over. However, both admitted that accreditation was a rewarding experience. “It is really good for a school because it forces us to think about why we do what we do. It forces us to figure out how we want to be better. What could we be doing to be a better school?” Sisson said.

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