Three years after clearing up problems with its accreditation, the largest private school in Louisiana has successfully renewed that accreditation and added a second accreditation as an independent school.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, in partnership with the Southern Association of Independent Schools, approved the dual accreditation for Baton Rouge’s Parkview Baptist School in June. Parkview joins 345 other independent schools in 11 states, including Baton Rouge’s The Dunham School and Episcopal High School, in having this dual accreditation.
“It’s a stamp of recognition. It’s like you’ve gone through this test and you’ve passed. And you were passed by experts in the field,” said Melanie Ezell, Parkview’s superintendent.
That stamp came from a team of five educators who work at other independent Christian schools who visited Parkview on April 13-15. The educators agreed unanimously at the end of that visit that Parkview deserves dual accreditation, which will last the school another five years before it needs to be renewed.
In its report, the team said they examined and were satisfied that Parkview had good answers to the following four questions:
• Where is the school today?
• Where does the school want to go?
• What is the plan to get there?
• How will the school know when it has accomplished its plan?
“Parkview is well-positioned to execute the strategic plans of the board with a full complement of administrative staff and a wide range of competencies and experience under the able direction of Dr. Ezell,” the team concluded.
Ezell said the team met privately with many people, including groups of students and parents, during its visit.
Parkview Baptist School, located at 5750 Parkview Church Road, enrolled about 1,450 students in grades kindergarten to 12 last year. It’s divided into elementary, middle and high schools.
In its report, the team had several commendations for the school:
• A diverse selection of competitive athletic programs.
• Its commitment to the performing arts.
• Strong sense of community among faculty and students.
• A cohesive faculty with a unity of purpose.
• Its commitment to professional development for its board of trustees.
The commendation for the board of directors is a turnaround from 2005 when SACS found that the school needed to establish rules that more clearly separated the board from the day-to-day operations of the school and to provide for the “orientation and training” of board members. Later, SACS gave the school a warning to resolve the problems, a step short of probation.
In June, the school hired Ezell, who had spent three years as interim headmaster of The Dunham School, who managed to help bring the school back into SACS compliance by the summer of 2008.
In 2009, the school joined SAIS, an organization Ezell was familiar with from Dunham. Schools that join SAIS go through the dual SACS/SAIS accreditation process, Ezell said.
So instead of a team of largely Louisiana public school educators, Parkview would be evaluated by a team of educators from similar independent Christian schools, she said.
“It’s about comparing apples to apples,” she said.
The team did have a couple of recommendations for improvement, Ezell said, including improving internal communications among Parkview’s three schools, and making changes to its facility planning and operations.
For instance, Ezell said the school has a strong performing arts program with good equipment, but conducts performances such as a spring production of “Phantom of the Opera” in a school gym rather than in a performing arts space as many other high schools do.
Joni Owens, the school’s new director of advancement, said the accreditation shows that Parkview has more to offer than just its traditional calling card, athletics, to offer.
“It shines a light on our other accomplishments, showing that we’re well balanced,” she said.