By Marisa Goolcharan, Staff Writer
During the first week of March, the students and staff of Trinity Hall welcomed the accreditation team from the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools (NJAIS) and Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The visit of the four-member team, comprised of administrators and faculty from independents schools around NJ, is a crucial step in the school’s goal to be accredited by both of these organizations by this summer.
“The accreditation process is important to Trinity Hall because it allows the community to know that we are living up to the best practices established by the NJAIS and Middle States association,” said Melissa Whelan, chair of the school’s planning committee for accreditation. Other members of the planning committee include two administrators, two additional faculty members, one board member, three parents, one community member and three student leaders.
Although the planning committee helped steer the school’s self-study, all students, faculty/staff, parents and board members were invited and encouraged to contribute throughout the process, beginning with a community-wide survey that was distributed in December of 2014 to gather views about the school’s fulfillment of the standards established by the NJAIS and Middle States. The community also participated in a workshop last spring to garner additional feedback for the self-study, and all returning faculty and board members as well as some parents and students served on sub-committees to further discuss each standard.
“For the sub-committee work, we were paired with people that we had worked with before or who had experience in that field to digest the community’s feedback and collectively respond to that standard’s objectives,” said world language teacher Melissa Fairchild, who co-chaired the subcommittee on personnel. “It was refreshing and enlightening to hear everyone’s perspectives throughout the whole self-study process. There was so much that didn’t occur to me that we do and do well. The process reminds you to never stop thinking and rethinking what works and what doesn’t work depending on the environment and community needs.” Each sub-committee drafted a portion of the complete self-study report that was compiled and sent to the accreditation team prior to its visit.
The accreditation team was welcomed after school on March 1 with a ceremony that began with a prayer led by Sister Mariann and members of the campus ministry council, followed by brief comments from Head of School Mary Sciarrillo and student body president Chloe Toole. A group of cast members from the spring musical Godspell performed a song from the show to display some of the students’ talents and hard work. The dedication of the community was notable as students, faculty, founders, and parents made an effort to attend the ceremony. The chair of the visiting team introduced the other team members and shared the goals of the team’s visit.
“I think it was important to have students involved in the [accreditation] process because students at Trinity Hall do take leadership opportunities on a normal basis, so it was nice to show them [the accreditation team] how student-oriented we are,” Toole said.
“It was really surprising to see how much [Trinity Hall] had to offer when we were asked to list it,” student body vice president Abby Marcin said. “We were stressed out for the visit but it went really well and they seemed impressed with our school.”
Toole, sophomore Mairead Mark and junior Pallavi Kawatra gave the team a tour of the school and explained the mission of Trinity Hall by showing the team how it is portrayed in the classrooms and hallways.
“To have students welcome the team and give them a tour was special because it shows that we care as much about our school as the faculty, administration, and parents do,” Mark said.
Accreditation team members attended classes on March 2 and 3 to ensure the curriculum and courses met the high standards set by Trinity Hall. The team members also met with faculty, parents and board members to discuss different aspects of the school before meeting with the full faculty on March 4 to deliver a summary of their findings. The team’s final report will be delivered in early summer, at which time Trinity Hall will receive official notice of its accreditation from the NJAIS and Middle States Association.
Although there was evident stress in the school leading up to the accreditation visit, the entire process has been beneficial to the future of the school as it continues to grow, and the team’s positive feedback left the community feeling optimistic.
In an email to the entire community following the accreditation visit, Sciarrillo said, “…the work that this entire community put into preparing our Self-Study Report has poised us for continued improvement and growth. In the concluding exit remarks, the Chair of the Visiting Committee commented on the generosity, the rigorous academic program, the support for diversity, commitment to mission and the strength of our community. The chair congratulated us and commended the hard work evident in the Self-Study.”