Published November 23, 2006
St. Joseph School in Athens has been awarded dual accreditation by the Southern Association of Independent Schools and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SAIS-SACS). The school was established in 1949 by Father Walter Donovan and is currently headed by Principal Barbara Bankston. Although St. Joseph’s has had SACS accreditation for a number of years, this is the first time that the school has sought the dual accreditation offered by SAIS-SACS.
Schools with dual accreditation adhere to a rigorous set of research-based standards. To earn dual accreditation, a school does an extensive self-study and is then also evaluated by a group of peer professionals representing both accrediting agencies who visit the school.
St. Joseph School was evaluated this fall by a SAIS-SACS accreditation evaluation team chaired by Dr. Therese Williams, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Nashville, Tenn.
According to Bankston, St. Joseph’s was commended for “a rigorous well-rounded curriculum; a highly qualified, experienced, and collegial staff; outstanding leadership; a community of positive caring students who respect and value each other; and parents who are involved in all aspects of the school.”
The evaluation team noted, “St. Joseph’s has developed a learning community where Christian values are taught and modeled daily.”
The school was also commended for the genuine, positive atmosphere of the school—an “esprit de corps”; focusing on Catholic identity; hiring a strong faculty of trained professionals; continuing visionary leadership; choices in extracurricular activities; making the mission statement an integral part of school life; the teachers’ enthusiasm, pride and teamwork; and exemplifying respect throughout the school.
In a summary, the evaluation team described St. Joseph’s as “an outstanding school” and a “caring, safe place for students to grow.”
Bankston said, “We are very pleased with the outcome of the evaluation, and I would like to commend our staff for their efforts. It is evident everyday at St. Joseph Catholic School that we are guided by faith and committed to excellence.”
The dual accreditation program debuted in 2004, according to the SAIS Web site.
Archdiocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools Diane Starkovich said seeking the dual accreditation, rather than the SACS accreditation only, is becoming something of a trend among Catholic schools in North Georgia. In August St. Peter Claver Regional School in Decatur received SAIS-SACS accreditation.
Catholic schools in the archdiocese belong to many different schools’ organizations and benefit from varying aspects of the SACS organization, which accredits colleges as well as high school and elementary schools, and from other aspects of SAIS, which focuses on the independent schools’ learning environment and challenges, Starkovich said.
Receiving the joint accreditation adds “another level of accountability” to parents, ensuring them that the schools have measurable goals and are meeting them and that “outside eyes” are critically evaluating the schools and finding them meeting rigorous standards.