SOUTH PORTLAND — An independent accreditation committee’s report praises the high school principal and staff, but also cites the building’s physical deficiences and blames the community for not supporting a 2007 bond for repairs.
In October, a group of 16 educators from the New England Association of Colleges spent four days at the high school, shadowing students and speaking with faculty. The site visit followed a 36-moth self-study conducted by 12 teachers and administrators.
Superintendent Suzanne Godin said in a press release that the report will be forwarded to the Commission on Public Secondary Schools, which will decide whether to re-accredit the high school. The school’s accreditation, which affects students’ post-secondary college and job opportunities, must take place every 10 years.
The report commends Principal Jeanne Crocker, her assistant principals and the teaching staff. It also applauds the business and community partnerships the school has forged. But it says staff is essentially handcuffed by the state of the school and its deficiencies.
“This team is engaged in the difficult work of creating and sustaining a mission-driven school culture against the backdrop of serious problems by the existing physical plant at South Portland High School,” the report said. “The electrical capacity is routinely exceeded by teachers and other staff members, resulting in tripped circuit breakers and staff members not employing technical teaching aids.”
The accreditation committee said “the most discouraging fact” about the school is the community’s resounding defeat in 2007 of a $56 million bond to rebuild the school.
“This school is a well-established, well-respected community asset,” the report said. “(But) it currently is functioning under a cloud of an unknown future because of the status of the old and deteriorating building.”
While some in the community have blamed employees for inadequately maintaining the building, the committee concluded the building has been relatively well-maintained. But the 1940s building, the report said, has insufficient electrical capacity, heat and ventilation problems, and sound distractions that “prohibit teachers from utilizing the technology and innovations that would ensure the effective instructional practices are employed in all classes.”
Other facilities problems noted by the committee include inaccessibility for the handicapped, leaky roofs and windows, bathrooms without hot water, leaky toilets and broken bathroom stalls.
“Efforts continue to reformat information about the needs and ruinous effects of the building on teaching and learning,” the report said.
Meanwhile, the School Board, citing the economic downturn, recently scrapped a plan that would have sent a scaled-down renovation plan to voters in November. Monday night, the board began work on a redoubled maintenance plan for not only the high school, but all city schools.
Chairwoman Stacy Gato said the board is determined to first address the critical needs at the school and concentrate on upgrades that could be implemented into a full-scale renovation, if voters approve funding in the future. Once the critical needs are addressed, she said the board will focus on more long-term improvements aimed in improving student learning.
Gato said the priorities of the high school upgrades will depend on the specific recommendations of the commission, which could issue it’s findings as soon as May. The school will then have five years to address its needs.
Despite the aging facility, the accreditation committee applauded school for fostering a culture of respect, noting that students have a clear idea of rewards and punishments. It also applauded co-curricular activities and groups like the Key Club and National Honor Society, which focus on community service and connectivity.
The committee also commended the superintendent and the School Board for essentially not trying to micromanage the high school.
“The principal has a strong vision of a student-center school and a broad constituency shares this vision,” the report said.