Written by Kathleen Xue
Over the course of the 2014-2015 school year, Gunn staff and administration will take part in Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), a required self-study. The leadership team for the study will include staff, students and community members.
California high schools are required to undergo an accreditation process every six years. This is Gunn’s sixth year in the process, and by April 2015 the school will need to compile a report on the school’s status and overall organization in order to be accredited for the next six years.
Principal Denise Herrmann is helping administer WASC during her first year at Gunn and has already found areas of Gunn that need improvement. “Something I learned coming in this year is that some of the data we need to keep well, wasn’t kept very well at all,” Dr. Herrmann said. “So for us to try and set some goals, such as attendance, because we don’t have a set system of measuring data, we don’t have this area to be able to analyze how we’re doing.”
Dr. Herrmann believes that WASC is essential to the school not only because of its requirement for government-recognized diplomas but also because of its beneficial effects. “The real purpose of WASC, I think, is for us to really do an inventory of what things we’re doing well, how can we expand those things and in what areas we’re lacking,” Dr. Herrmann said. “From the results so far, I think this is showing that we should be doing something like WASC more than once every six years.”
As coordinator of the 2014-2015 WASC, Meg Omainsky is responsible for organizing the various aspects of the self study process. “The self-study coordination process involves inviting feedback from our broad community including students, parents, staff and district representatives as to how we can improve our services to our learning community,” Omainsky said. “The process culminates with a report that documents where we are, our analysis and our course of action through 2021.” The WASC inspectors are expected to visit March 2015 to evaluate Gunn’s fulfillment of its past WASC plan.
This year, Omainsky hopes to get more student and community feedback on Gunn’s performance. “When we sit down to make our WASC plan, it should not just be teachers and administration,” she said. “It should include teachers, administration, students and community. It should be collaborative.” This year, Omainsky said, over 95 students where chosen to take part in focus groups to discuss the implementation of the new system drafted by the WASC team.
One of the student leaders on the WASC leadership team, senior Sulema Gama, believes that there is a lot of progress regarding WASC so far. Gama and the leadership team are working on evaluating the report written by the WASC writing team which is composed of teachers Todd Summers, Daisy Renazco, Tarn Wilson, Nicole Menache and Ethan Halter. Gama hopes that this coming WASC will address the issue of academic stress on students. “The stress level at Gunn can definitely be decreased,” she said. “And I hope that we can make that happen with a new set of standards.”