We’re Being Watched

In April of 2007, the Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School received a letter from the New England Association of Schools & Colleges, Inc. (NEASC) — a letter that represents an objective, third-party assessment of the status of our current services. The news was not good.

A high school is the lodestar of any school district, and the problems at our high school highlight the extent of our district-wide crisis.

To be blunt: our school district is at a tipping point. For the past five years, we have addressed our chronic funding shortfall with small overrides and large cuts in services. Indeed, we have made cuts every year for the past five years, eliminating over 75 staff positions since 2002.

The education community has noticed.

NEASC last reviewed our High School in 1997. When NEASC returned, it was looking at a very different picture than the one from 10 years before.

The NEASC report identifies 18 items of concern, the most profound being the large decrease in staff and course offerings as well as the serious underfunding of the facilities and technology infrastructure.

In its letter, NEASC directly addressed High School administration, the School Committee, the selectmen and other local leaders:

“School and system officials and members of the local governing body are urged to take immediate steps to address these identified concerns. Failure to do so may prompt the Commission to consider placing the school on warning for deficiencies in meeting one or more of the Standards for Accreditation.”

Since the accreditation committee issued this warning, things have deteriorated even more. Last year’s $500,000 override was $956,097 short of the amount needed to maintain level services.

Without accreditation:

  • colleges will not recognize our High School’s diplomas.
  • we stand the risk of losing reimbursements from the State.

Throughout Massachusetts, ten towns are already on probationary status, primarily due to funding issues.

Are we next? Let’s not be. Let’s acknowledge together that an accredited high school is an essential town service.

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