By Diana Bowley of the News Saff - DEXTER - It has been a "long, drawn-out process," but the administration, staff and students have taken Dexter Regional High School to a higher level in education, according to a school official. School officials were notified recently that the high school had been removed from a warning status by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges for its instruction and assessment of student learning because of its accomplishments over the past five years. "This is a great day for those of us that have been working so hard for this end," Dexter Principal Bruce Bailey said this week. "It was a challenge to us and we hunkered down and addressed our shortcomings."
When Bailey took over as principal of the school in 1999, he was aware, he said, that a review of the school's accreditation was on the horizon. He knew that there might be problems because the school had been operated on a "status quo" basis.
The principal wasn't prepared for the scope of the problems. "They took a flashlight to us and showed us all the bad spots," Bailey said of the accreditation team. He recalled that the team members said "some nice things to us" and then whipped out a list of 92 recommendations on how to improve the school.
The recommendations were reviewed and changes were made, according to the principal. The school was fortunate to have received a $150,000 Comprehensive Reform Demonstration Grant in each of the last three years to help make the necessary improvements, he said.
Along the way, school officials observed some amazing results. For example, the Maine Education Assessment test scores typically had ranked below or at state average in certain subject areas in past years, but for the last two years, the MEA scores exceeded the state average in all academic areas.
That improvement did not go unnoticed by state education officials who recognized the school among others that have made academic strides.
"We're very pleased, not only with their work in assessments but also their instructional strategies," Pamela Gray-Bennett, director of the Commission on Public Secondary Schools, said Thursday. Accreditation shows that schools hold themselves to high standards, she said. More than 90 percent of the high schools in Maine are accredited with the Commission on Public Secondary Schools within the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, she said.
The commission lauded the school's advisory program, its assessment practices, expanded course offerings, the collaboration of staff in examining student work and its MEA test scores, among others.
"This removal from warning status of our high school is a cumulative effort, which I think shows the work and dedication of the high school staff to make all the recommendations requested by the commission," SAD 46 Superintendent Les Butler said recently.
Bailey is proud of the accomplishments made, but he also recognizes that it is an ongoing process, one that will continually need tweaking.
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