Diocesan schools achieve reaccreditation

Diocese of Knoxville system meets standards set by international, national agencies      

By Gabrielle Nolan

Diocese of Knoxville Catholic Schools have once again passed a rigorous accreditation review process.

This process ensures that diocesan schools meet the standards established by the National Standards and Benchmarks of Excellence for Effective Catholic Schools issued by the National Catholic Educational Association and Cognia, an international accrediting agency.

The announcement came on April 27 after meetings took place at the Chancery in Knoxville April 25-27.

“I am thrilled to share that our system of Catholic schools has met the standards for reaccreditation,” said Dr. Sedonna Prater, superintendent of Catholic Schools.

While addressing colleagues, pastors, school leaders, faculty, and the Catholic school communities, Dr. Prater stated:

“This success is due to the significant contributions each of you have made in our educational ministry throughout this continuous improvement journey! The work that you do daily to realize our mission of preparing scholars, leaders, and saints is affirmed and deeply appreciated.”

The Accreditation Focus Review consisted of virtual meetings through Cognia, and the Focus Review Team consisted of superintendents, associate superintendents, and principals from Catholic schools in the dioceses of Charleston, S.C., Evansville, Ind., and Miami.

Those who participated in the accreditation process contributed through surveys, panelist interviews, and initiative presentations.

This review comes five years after the previous accreditation review, when the diocese was accredited as a system in 2017.

“As a system, the Catholic schools office is responsible for conducting internal quality assurance reviews of the schools, ensuring that advancement goals are developed from a deliberate analytical review of data, stakeholder input, and a preponderance of evidence, and leading the system in the creation of goals for continual advancement and improvement,” Dr. Prater said.

“The accreditation validates our schools as schools of distinction and assures that our students can attend colleges and universities,” she continued. “The process encourages and promotes a unified approach to continue to advance our schools.”

While the official report from the Focus Review Team will be shared in one month, the team did provide commendations and recommendations during the concluding meeting on April 27.

Examples of commendations include:

  • The diocesan schools office maximizes opportunities by utilizing national and local community partners to enhance leadership programs.
  • Strong academic performance reflects the commitment to meet the needs of all learners.
  • Training sought out through the Latino Enrollment Institute at the University of Notre Dame has brought great ideas and enthusiasm for increasing Latino enrollment in the schools.

The following recommendations are required by the diocesan schools to act upon, and within two years the schools will provide evidence back to Cognia on the results:

  • Develop rationale and prototype for consistent board structure and implementation differentiated for elementary and secondary schools.
  • Develop a consistent salary structure for each region, and funding for tuition assistance for staff children, to assist in the recruitment and retention of teachers.
  • Expand marketing and development efforts to include outreach to alumni, cultivation of community partners, grantsmanship, and other opportunities for resource acquisition.

Assisting Dr. Prater throughout the process was Jamie Goodhard, the accreditation project coordinator and a former principal of St. Jude School in Chattanooga.

“I would like to especially thank Mrs. Jamie Goodhard,” Dr. Prater said. “Over the past two years, through her coordinated efforts with the schools office, the schools, and the school leaders, she has collected, analyzed, and presented all the relevant data necessary to support our strategic growth actions and illustrate system compliance with the National Standards of Effective Catholic Schools.”

Dr. Prater also acknowledged the participation of the pastors and clergy members who “gave of their time to be a part of our panelist interviews; they noted the tremendous commitment to our schools by all stakeholders that was clearly evident through the presentations and interviews.”

“A very special thank you is extended to Bishop [Richard F.] Stika and diocesan leadership for their continued support of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Knoxville,” Dr. Prater said. “The review team was extremely complimentary of the extensive stakeholder involvement.”

The Diocese of Knoxville schools system includes: two high schools, and eight schools that are preschool through eighth grade. Schools are located in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport, Johnson City, and Oak Ridge. For more information, visit www.dioknox.org/schools.

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