School officials aim to meet accreditation standards

By Ryn Gargulinski: Quay County Sun

Tucumcari school officials profess high standards.

A group of educational gurus from from North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School improvement help them reach those goals.

Tucumcari Superintendent William Reents said the accreditation team will be in town April 18-21 to make sure the elementary and high schools still qualify for a regional list of outstanding schools.

Site visits only happen every three years.

Tucumcari Middle School is not accredited by NCA-CASI because it is on the state’s list of schools that need improvement, Principal Roberta Segura said.

Established more than a century ago, NCA-CASI is a voluntary, non-governmental organization that accredits more than 9,000 schools in 19 states, the Navajo Nation and the Department of Defense dependents’ schools worldwide, according to its Web site.

Schools receive accreditation by meeting their criteria for academic standards.

The five basic guidelines they enforce, according to the site, are an ongoing school improvement plan, a system of keeping and relaying information, the manner in which kids are schooled, vision, leadership-governance and school community and how available resources are allocated.

In short, they pretty much check out everything, said Tucumcari Elementary School Principal Theresa Salazar. She said NCA-CASI holds even higher expectations than the state.

“They look at how you keep the (students’ cumulative) folders, the certification of the teachers, how the teaching system works, how students are learning,” she said.

They will be in the offices, throughout the grounds and even sitting in classrooms, Reents said, adding the resources and allocation criteria met for Tucumcari is a huge accomplishment, especially for schools of its size.

The elementary school, with a student body of about 500, has been accredited by NCA-CASI since 2004 while the high school, which houses about 300 students, has a lengthy history with NCA-CASI dating back to 1924, according to the organization’s Web site.

In all, 280 New Mexico schools are accredited by NCA-CASI, according to its Web site.

“This is something you have to apply for. You don’t just get it,” Reents said, adding neither Clovis nor Portales appear anywhere on the list. Surrounding Quay County schools in House, San Jon and Logan also lack NCA-CASI accreditation.

NCA-CASI recognizes public and private schools elementary through post-secondary schools and are working on a program to accredit early education programs, the site said.

So what’s Tucumcari schools’ secret?

Teamwork, said Tucumcari High School Principal Susan Montoya.

“The three of us (principals) have been working together,” Montoya said. “I am fortunate to be working with such professionals. This not only raises the standards for the schools, but the standards for the community.”

For a list of other schools accredited by NCA-CASI: