‘Validates our effort:’ Shelton High earns high marks with NEASC accreditation

The new floor in the gym at Shelton High School, in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 15, 2021.

The new floor in the gym at Shelton High School, in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 15, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Students are not the only ones being honored this month — Shelton High has also earned top marks from a top regional educational organization.

Shelton High School officials were recently informed that the school has earned full accreditation with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

“It is great to get this kind of recognition,” Shelton High Principal Kathy Riddle told Hearst Connecticut Media, “but our work is not done. This report is impressive, and it also helps us to focus on goals we need to reach to get better in the future.”

The honor comes after 12 years of the school not receiving such accreditation. Superintendent Ken Saranich said the high school is on “conditional accreditation.”

NEASC performs its review every 10 years. Shelton High, last reviewed in 2010, had its most recent review delayed due to the pandemic.

“This is a major accomplishment,” Saranich told Hearst Connecticut Media. “It is a validation of all the hard work done by Kathy Riddle and her staff.”

Saranich said the past review, done 12 years ago, placed Shelton High on conditional accreditation because the school had not met all of the standards set forth by NEASC.

Saranich said the district’s improvements to its curriculum and placing the Vision of the Graduate standards in the K-12 planning was instrumental in getting the full accreditation. He also praised the city for funding school improvements, such as the sprinkler system, as well as technology and curriculum upgrades that also helped the school meet NEASC standards.

The report praised Shelton High’s “positive school climate,” calling it “palpable by all who visit and attend" the school.

“This was my focus coming in,” Riddle, who was named interim principal in 2019 before taking the job on a permanent basis last year, said about changing the school’s culture. “That was an important part of my school improvement plan. To see that among the commendations … I was happy to see that recognition.”

The school’s commitment to professional development to increase collaboration among staff was also noted in the commendations section of the report.

Also noted was the district’s creation of its Vision of the Graduate program, which consists of six main principles — problem solving; creativity and innovation; flexibility and adaptability; initiative and self-direction; collaboration; and empathy — that should be demonstrated at different stages of the K-12 experience through various milestones.

Saranich was pleased the NEASC team recognized the focus the district has placed on the Vision of the Graduate.

The report also praised the school’s steps taken with utilization of technology, specifically moving away from a 4:1 device school to a 1:1 device school; fluidity of technological uses in the building; and open access for students to enroll in elective courses that have a strong technological component, specifically those that have partnerships with agencies outside of Shelton High School, like Sikorsky Aircraft and the Project Aviation course; Housatonic Community College and Turner Construction in partnership with CTE and Vocational education courses.

Saranich praised the Board of Education and city leaders for their commitment to funding the school district to help maintain staffing and improve the technology offerings throughout the school system.

“This is validation that the high school and the Shelton Public School system are going in the right direction,” Saranich said. “Getting this from NEASC proves that what we’re doing works.”

Riddle said a major focus going forward will be better data assessment, specifically with the social emotional piece. At present, the district does three student surveys a year, but Riddle said she wants more regular check-ins with students for a more comprehensive look at the students’ emotional state.

Saranich said he would be presenting a full detailing of the NEASC report at the board’s next Teaching and Learning Committee meeting.

A visiting team of six members was assigned by the Commission on Public Schools to conduct a Decennial Accreditation visit to Shelton High School.

Riddle praised NEASC prep co-chairs Erik Martire, the district’s K-12 guidance curriculum leader, and Jim Colandrea, high school assistant principal, for their efforts facilitating the process, which began two years ago.

NEASC’s website states the organization is an independent, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization which partners with more than 1,500 public, independent, and international schools in the U.S. and worldwide to “assess, support, and promote high quality education for all students through accreditation, professional assistance, and pursuit of best practices.”

A globally recognized standard of excellence, the website states “NEASC Accreditation attests to a school’s high quality and integrity.”