In summer 2016, St. James School celebrated an incredible milestone years in the making–it became one of the youngest schools to earn accreditation from the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS). Only a handful of non-tuition driven schools within the state are accredited with PAIS, and many wait to tackle the rigorous process until at least their 10th year of operations.
Accreditation underscores St. James School’s commitment to excellence, and recognizes that the school’s mission, program, methods, and staff are on par with Pennsylvania’s most prestigious private schools. Accreditation also ensures that St. James School is consistently held to high standards, and opens up a new world of professional development opportunities and best practice resources only available to PAIS accredited schools.
“It’s a huge achievement for a school like ours to be accredited by a body as well regarded as PAIS,” said Head of School David Kasievich. “When we opened in 2011, some saw us as a risky experiment. Accreditation establishes that yes, our school works, and that it has the same level of academic quality as other PAIS accredited schools, from Friends Select School to St. Joe’s Prep.”
St. James School’s accreditation did not happen overnight; in fact the conversation began back in 2014. Preparing to embark on the demanding review process, the school’s dedicated staff and leadership proved to be ahead of the curve, and were certain that the school, though young, was ready.
By 2015, two staff members took on the role of accreditation co-chairs and recruited a team of staff, board members and volunteers to tackle part one of the process, a comprehensive self evaluation, testing whether the school lives out 25 standards of effective independent schools. It was an all-hands-on-deck effort, as 10 working groups formed to research and respond to a series of in depth questions in focal areas ranging from Mission and Philosophy to Physical Plant. The entire school community engaged in thoughtful reflection about important topics, like how the school lives out its Episcopal identity, partners with the community, and communicates its mission to parents and stakeholders.
The end result was a 123 page document, describing St. James School’s mission, approach, results, and future plans in detail. After submitting the final document in the fall, the school eagerly prepared for the second part of the process—a three and a half day evaluation visit by a committee of peer professionals from PAIS member schools in the spring. The visit was filled with interviews and observations, and committee members shared both commendations and recommendations for the future. Finally, in June, the visiting team reported back with exciting news—the school was now a fully accredited member of PAIS.