Catholic schools receive major accreditation

Sixty schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Department of Schools have been accredited by AdvancEd, a division of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, the world’s largest accrediting and school improvement organization.

Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, apostolic administrator for the archdiocese, announced the news during the Oct. 22 gala for Catholic education at the Baltimore Convention Center.

“The accreditation is an objective affirmation of the direction our schools are headed in and a resounding endorsement of the quality of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” the archbishop said.

A quality assurance review team from AdvancEd met with 56 school board members, 138 pastors and school administrators, 113 students, 94 parents community and business partners, 58 teachers and 35 support staff during evaluations. The team commended the system’s leadership, commitment to Catholic identity, leadership and strategic direction.

“It’s really an intense process,” said superintendent Barbara McGraw Edmondson.

The archdiocese began the process of joining the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools back in early 2010, just before Edmondson succeeded Ronald Valenti as superintendent.

As the same time, the archdiocese was about to announce the closing of 13 schools in Baltimore County and Baltimore City in the wake of severe financial issues and enrollment declines. Archbishop O’Brien’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Catholic Schools announced a strategic plan in June of 2010 to reverse those trends. The committee’s 56 recommendations focused on academic excellence, Catholic identity, governance and stewardship, as well as a series of new academic programs, new sources of funding and a collaborative schools model.

“I don’t think there could have been a better time to go through the accreditation process,” Edmondson said.

Signs of change have started to happen, including the creation of an archdiocesan school board and the new accreditation. The archdiocese received more good news in recent weeks as the schools reported its smallest decline in enrollment (4.3 percent) in four years and a 50 percent improvement from last year’s drop (9 percent).

“We are very encouraged that the trend in declining enrollment has begun to turn around because this means we are able to provide a quality, Catholic education to more children,” Archbishop O’Brien said.

Edmondson said recent events are validation for the archbishop, who made tough and often unpopular decisions at the time. She said principals and schools should be proud of what they have accomplished and use the recommendations of the AdvancEd to improve further.

“An individual school is strengthened that much more when it has support from the archdiocese,” she said.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.