St. Thomas School is accredited by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS).
Accreditation is a voluntary process that is undertaken by schools that are committed to continuous improvement and compliance with rigorous standards set forth by NWAIS. St. Thomas School has been a fully accredited member of NWAIS for decades. In order to be re-accredited, STS embarked on a two-year process which included a comprehensive self-study and a review by a visiting team of experienced educators and school leaders. In May 2014 the Board of Governors once again welcomed St. Thomas School as a fully accredited member of NWAIS.
The self-study process involved the entire community – serving on or leading committees, participating in several surveys, and meeting directly with the visiting team. This was an exceptional opportunity to reflect on best practices, acknowledge our institutional strengths, and create a roadmap for ongoing improvement. The School wishes to thank parents, the Board of Trustees, students, faculty, and staff for their incredible involvement and leadership.
- Why seek accreditation?
- What does it mean to be an accredited school?
- How does STS demonstrate its dedication to excellence?
- What are the results of the accreditation process?
- What's next?
There are many other benefits that come about as a result of accreditation:
- Accreditation assures parents and the general public that the school is focused on providing a safe and enriching learning environment while maintaining an efficient and effective operation;
- Accreditation provides school leadership with an independent, non-governmental validation that the school they oversee is effectively delivering a quality educational experience to its students and families;
- Accreditation eases the transition students face as they move from one accredited school to another by accepting the incoming student's credits and academic record;
- Accreditation provides education leaders at all levels with deserved recognition for going above and beyond the minimum to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to quality;
- Accreditation provides educators with valuable information about effective practices in other schools through participation on peer review teams.
- Accredited schools have access to a variety of professional development programs and national/regional benchmarks across a variety of areas such as salaries, financial aid, endowments, and admissions.
Accredited schools adhere to the following core values of NWAIS:
- Free and Open Inquiry
- Commitment to Diversity
- Ongoing School Improvement
- Collegial Relationships and Ethical Leadership
Read more about NWAIS membership.
- approved by the Washington State Board of Education
- a full member of the National Association of Independent Schools
- licensed by the Department of Early Learning
- a member of the Washington Federation of Independent Schools
- a fully accredited member of the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS)
- a level two Washington State Green School
- LEED Gold certified
- a Microsoft Showcase School
Recognition of core strengths and continuous school improvement are hallmarks of the accreditation process. To this end, STS is pleased to share highlights of the commendations and recommendations received as a result of the February 2014 reaccreditation process.
STS received an unprecedented number of commendations from the visiting team. These included major commendations as well as commendations across twelve specific areas: the self-study process, mission, culture, commitment to diversity, institutional leadership, finance, administration, institutional advancement, enrollment management, human resources, physical plant, and health and safety.
THE NWAIS VISITING TEAM COMMENDS:
- The faculty, support staff, administration, Board, parents, and students for embracing a self-study process that was transparent, inclusive and thorough. Your quality work, excellent preparation, and thoughtful self-reflection are a model for other schools and have already served to inspire transformative conversations that we are confident will continue throughout the school community.
- The Head of School for his vision, energy, personal courage, and leadership, which has inspired the STS community to make a great leap forward. He has helped the school to evolve and sustain its core values, while embracing innovative change at every level in the school.
- The Board and the Head of School for a willingness to take risks, and their collective generosity with their time, expertise, energy, vision, and capital, which has “bravely moved the school forward” through a successful capital campaign, into a new facility and toward a financially sustainable future with the shared value of modeling excellence in education on a global scale.
- The faculty for their caring commitment to the children and families of St. Thomas School, and for their innovative, passionate approach to teaching and learning. Your classrooms and co-curricular programs are centers of excellence and inquiry where children grow and thrive in an environment that is stimulating, challenging and safe.
- The senior administrative team for its dedication, flexibility and collaborative spirit—a true team of individuals who are bound together by shared passion for the school and mutual respect for one another’s expertise and commitment.
- The students for being joyfully engaged in learning, working hard, asking thought provoking questions, producing beautiful artwork, coming up with interesting ideas, being kind and supportive to one another, and earnestly taking on responsibilities and leadership roles throughout the school.
- The parents for their strong support for the school and its mission. Your invested partnership with the school is evident on every level as you welcome and embrace new families, volunteer on committees that are essential to building community of the school, lead the annual auction, show appreciation to the teachers, and through this work, advocate for all children.
- The administration and support staff for your enthusiastic commitment to the school and high levels of collegiality. You demonstrate care and concern for all members of the STS community, conscious attention to the students’ welfare and security, and a kind generosity of spirit that promotes a positive environment for working and learning at STS.
- The Chapel program which unites and strengthens the community, nurtures character and spiritual intelligence, celebrates achievements, and creates a contemplative environment for inner reflection and thoughtful exploration of the values and traditions of others. This daily tradition is inclusive, provides leadership opportunities for students, and promotes and reaffirms the value to “be a blessing in the world.”
Of even greater value are the recommendations made to the school. As with commendations, the visiting team provided major recommendations and recommendations across twelve separate areas:
THE NWAIS VISITING TEAM PROVIDED THE FOLLOWING MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS:
- That the Head of School, faculty, and administration carry forward work already underway to address issues that have emerged as a result of the rapid growth undertaken by the school. This work should include the following:
- The faculty and administration should work together to create a developmentally appropriate academic identity for each division that also articulates and affirms the connections between them.
- The academic leadership and the faculty should continue to build connections, promote collegiality, and create programmatic cohesion between divisions and teaching teams in the school.
- That the Head of School should evaluate the current structure, scope, and breadth of responsibilities of the academic leadership to more clearly define and articulate the roles and responsibilities of both the Head and the academic leaders.
- The faculty and administration should engage in school-wide discussions about how the resources of space and time are allocated. This work should include an evaluation of the entire school plant, both in the context of anticipated growth in the next few years, and the long-term aspirations for all aspects of the program, preschool through 8th grade, including co-curricular, specialists and athletics.
- That the school structure community-wide conversations with the aim to expand both the scope of diversity and methods to achieve inclusion at STS. This work should not only include benchmarks for admissions and for financial aid, but also spell out the intentional steps and institutional practices needed to ensure that every family can fully participate in the life of the school community.
- That STS re-evaluate enrollment projections, identify points of vulnerability, and consider ways that the school can increase retention between grades and levels by clearly articulating the strengths and developmental uniqueness of each divisional program while, at the same time, weaving the common threads of the school’s mission to tell the story and identify the value of a cohesive PS-8th grade experience internally and externally.
While the re-accreditation process validates so much of our collective hard work over the years, STS has never been known to rest on its laurels. In keeping with our desire to continually improve the educational experience for our students, the results of the self-study and visiting team report will influence discussion and decision-making for years to come. The specific commendations and recommendations will be woven into the upcoming strategic planning process that will involve the Board of Trustees, the administrative team, faculty, and staff. Parental input continues to be incredibly important, and surveys, focus groups, and daily interactions with parents will always be a significant element of the strategic planning process.