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November 9, 2017
Small school, big ideas and successful PAIS assessment
by Teacher Kate Grant-Day

On the afternoon of Wednesday, October 25, the LFS faculty and staff breathed a collective sigh of relief. We had not only reached the culmination of our part in the school’s re-accreditation process, we had also received very positive feedback from our visiting committee.

After a four-day visit, Tom Hoopes, the vice chair of the visiting committee wrote,

“It was an extraordinary pleasure and privilege to spend time at your school, and to get to appreciate the transformative community which is Lansdowne Friends School. We were pleased to see the rich program and to meet with faculty, staff, administrators, students, parents and School Committee members.” Tom went on to write, “We applaud the vibrant energy of your community, and your focus on nurturing Quaker ethos and practice throughout the school.”

Penny Colgan-Davis, the committee chair, wrote to the faculty in a follow-up email:

"Being small has not diminished your dreams in any way.  Your program is rich and exciting with many opportunities for children to find their passions. The individual attention each child receives is enviable. As a parent, I would have no trouble handing my child over to the loving hands of LFS. … In our culture, expectations for many children and schools are narrowing, and LFS provides a model for us all. "

"Thank you again, everyone, for your hospitality, the hard work you put into preparing the report and for our visit and the graciousness with which you welcomed us each day. We all came away impressed by LFS and deeply grateful for having been there."

After finishing a fifteen-month self-study process, we felt honored, affirmed, and relieved to receive such positive feedback, and to hear that our visiting committee would recommend to the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS) that our accreditation be renewed. Official renewal will be decided upon by PAIS in the coming months.

The visiting committee consisted of five educators from independent schools throughout Pennsylvania, who agreed to spend four days at LFS to observe and evaluate the school.

The self-study began in the summer of 2016 when staff, faculty, and School Committee members were assigned to fourteen committees. The small size of the faculty meant that full-time teachers were each assigned to two or three committees. Committees met throughout the fall and winter of 2016-17 to examine standards of good practice set forth by PAIS. Each committee produced a report detailing how the school meets the standards for its section. These sections included mission and philosophy, governance, administration, financial management, advancement, school and community, various aspects of the program (teaching), personnel, health and safety, and physical plant.

After each committee’s report was drafted, it was edited and finalized by a steering committee for cohesion across the self-study. This editing process began in February and continued through Labor Day. The final report was sent to PAIS and to the visiting committee on the day before the first day of school. Finally, in the weeks leading up to the visit, staff and faculty tidied up the campus and parents volunteered to provide snacks for the visiting committee.

A reception when the visiting committee arrived on Sunday, October 22 allowed them to meet School Committee members, parents, and faculty. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the visiting committee observed every aspect of LFS life: arrival, dismissal, recess, classes, the facilities, documentation, and all processes. The visiting committee drafted a report outlining their observations of the school in action, as compared to the self-study report. Throughout the visit, the committee remarked about the warmth and trust within the community.

The self-study and accreditation process take place every ten years, with an interim visit in five years. A final report from the visiting committee will include recommendations for areas where the school could make improvements, and many of these will be addressed in an upcoming strategic plan.

As clerk of the steering committee, I want to thank all the faculty, administrators, and School Committee members who contributed to our self-study and all the families who supported the visit. It is an honor to work in such a vibrant community of families and with such amazing, qualified colleagues!