PUSD to undergo district-wide accreditation process next month

PUSD Governing Board President Greg Mengarelli receiving certificate of appreciation from Superintendent Joe Howard. Mengarelli, the new Prescott mayor, concluded his term as board president with election of officers on Tuesday night. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

PUSD Governing Board President Greg Mengarelli receiving certificate of appreciation from Superintendent Joe Howard. Mengarelli, the new Prescott mayor, concluded his term as board president with election of officers on Tuesday night. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

Mackin takes over as new PUSD board president

Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli on Tuesday night was honored for his year-long tenure as the Prescott Unified School District Governing Board president before the board adopted a new slate of officers.

The new board president will be John Mackin, a youth minister who was first-elected to the board in 2013. Vice-president will be long-time board member Tina Seeley, a real estate broker first elected in 2009. Mengarelli, who is also the mayor of Prescott, will remain on the board as a regular member. His term does not expire until the end of this year.

In other business, the board on Tuesday night voted unanimously to approve the installation of a Verizon cell tower at Taylor Hicks Elementary School. The cell tower will be hidden from sight inside what will be a larger diameter flagpole. The district will receive $2,400 annual revenue through an initial five-year leasing arrangement that is then renewable for up to four additional five-year terms.

Prescott Unified School District will have some special guests touring its schools next month.

The six visitors are national educational professionals who will be chatting with teachers, administrators, parents and students about everything from what they think about the food in the cafeteria to the protocols for college placement courses and teaching little ones to read. They will tour the district’s school facilities, and watch classroom teachers connect with students, be it teaching them a new chemical formula or how to write an essay on the founding fathers. These guests will even attend a Governing Board meeting on Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. to observe how the district’s administrators and five elected leaders do business.

The team from AdvancEd, an internationally renowned accreditation organization headquartered in north Georgia, will arrive in the district on Feb. 13. It will spend three days evaluating everything that goes on in the district. They will assess where PUSD faculty and staff excel while also examining where they might need to improve. The accreditation team will offer recommendations to assure the district is embracing the best national educational practices for about 4,000 of this community’s children.

AdvancEd advertises itself as a nonprofit organization committed to “rigorous, on-site reviews of a variety of educational institutions and systems to ensure that all learners realize their full potential.”

District Superintendent Joe Howard said a decision was reached two years ago to undergo the voluntary, district-wide accreditation rather than just proceed with the required high school accreditation. The move was a way to reinforce community confidence that this district is “walking our talk,” he said.

“It’s a large process, it’s very tedious, and a bit nerve-wracking,” Howard said. “But we wanted to do that. We value a reflective process.”

Assistant Superintendent Mardi Read said this is a chance for everyone in the district to showcase their product, celebrating achievements at the same time they consider new brands of excellence.

“Education of students is not an exact science, and so there are a lot of ways to approach that education,” Read said. “But we know that highly effective schools have similar things that they do.”

As part of this evaluation, Read said school leaders have been gathering academic data as well as conducting in-depth surveys with staff, students and parents. Administrators and teachers have been assessing curriculum and various instructional strategies, she said.

“We say a good teacher is always reflecting on what went well in a lesson, and what didn’t go well so as to know where they should focus their efforts,” Read said.

The new Governing Board President John Mackin said he sees this process as a testament to the district’s mission of offering the highest quality product to any and all students. Not every district opts to undergo such scrutiny, he said.

“This will give us feedback from an outside source on how we function, how we interact, how we educate kids, and how we care for, and support, our staff,” Mackin said.

Like Howard and Read, Mackin said he welcomes the chance for the district to earn recognition for noteworthy efforts and programs while at the same time getting advice on how to progress.

The process will conclude with a final accreditation report.

“We’re anxious for it to happen, and anxious to announce, ‘Yes, we’re amazing,’ Read said.