HAVERHILL — Things are looking up at Haverhill High School.
The panel of educational experts that threatened to revoke the school’s accreditation in the late 1990s has given HHS a glowing assessment in its latest review.
An Aug. 28 letter from the The New England Association of Schools and Colleges said the group recently voted to accept the Five-Year Progress Report of Haverhill High School and to continue the school’s accreditation.
Accreditation means a school meets critical standards for education, including a building that is in acceptable condition, has reasonable class sizes and modern technology, an atmosphere that promotes learning, and clearly defines educational goals and expectations for student achievement.
Educators say accreditation is important for students applying to college, as student transcripts note whether the school they graduated from is accredited, not accredited or is on probationary status, as Haverhill High was between 1998 and 2011.
The NEASC letter highlighted a long list of “positive aspects” and improvements at the school. They include: More spending on technology, raising money to eliminate student fees to play sports, better communication with parents, better tracking of student progress, and More Advanced Placement courses to help students get a start on college.
Superintendent James Scully praised the high school staff, Principal Bernard Nangle and the School Committee for the report.
“Bernie Nangle and his team have been instrumental in shaping the many components necessary to reach such success,” Scully said in a memo to the School Committee. “The commendations speak for themselves and I thank you on behalf of the students at Haverhill High School for your continued support of initiatives that are both timely and critical in keeping Haverhill High School competitive.
“This drama on accreditation has been unfolding since 1998 and you should all be very pleased that we have managed this well,” Scully said. “The (NEASC) letter affirms that very fact.”
In 1998, the accreditation agency raised several concerns about the high school prior to putting the school on probation. Problems included a poorly defined curriculum, outdated science laboratories, poor air quality, problems with handicap access and lack of security. The old probation report also said teachers and administrators communicated poorly, which resulted in a lack of coordination in curriculum. Expectations regarding student achievement were also poorly defined, the probation report said.
In 2004, the city began a $32 million renovation of the high school that was completed a few years ago. The school’s probationary status was removed in 2011.
Key components of the project included replacing all the building’s windows and doors, installing new systems to clean the air and heat and cool the school, renovating the building that houses the swimming pool, adding new science laboratories, and improving the building’s electrical systems and access for people with disabilities.
The campus driveway and grounds were also redesigned during the renovation, and a short time later the School Department spent about $1 million to upgrade technology in the building.
The review panel noted these improvements:
More spending on technology and providing teachers with modern hardware and software
Successful efforts to raise money to eliminate student sports fees
Better communication with parents and using parent feedback to improve instruction
The new Freshman Academy and common planning period for teachers who participate in it
Better tracking and reporting of student progress
More Advanced Placement courses to help students get a start on college
Improvements in special education services
An effective new writing method in the English Department
The addition of a Latino liaison position to improve communication with the Latino community