Grass Valley’s Bitney Prep addresses accreditation probation | TheUnion.com

Grass Valley’s Bitney Prep addresses accreditation probation

Bitney College Preparatory High School in Grass Valley has been placed on accreditation probation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

A school placed on probation is required to further demonstrate corrective action and compliance with accrediting standards.

In Bitney Prep's case, the school will have until 2020 to ensure its curriculum meets the standards expected of WASC.

Kristin Mayville, the newly appointed director of Bitney Prep, said the language can make the designation seem much more serious than it actually is.

Mayville said most of what needs to be addressed before their next review will fall under the category of paperwork.

"Typically when a school has been accredited for a period of time, when WASC comes to visit (they ask) 'is everything still rolling in the same direction? How's it going?'"said Mayville.

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She said WASC representatives visited at an inopportune time. Since the school is in the process of transitioning to a "Big Picture" model of learning, it hadn't yet updated the necessary paperwork to match what is actually happening in its classrooms and student internships.

Big Picture learning is a personalized learning model, focusing on the needs and interests of each individual student.

"To me the issue here is, we had a very important visit from an accrediting agency during a year when the plane was being built while it was being flown," Mayville said.

"I would say the changes that have been brought in with the Big Picture model create a school that is so different from what Bitney Prep was, that it's almost like having a new accreditation. And I'm sure the visiting team saw, wow this is really different. It does not conform to the typical (format)."

"WASC has very specific ways they like to see things done. It's easy to do in some schools and less easy in others."

WHAT IS WASC?

Western Association of Schools and Colleges, or WASC, is an official academic body responsible for the accreditation of public and private universities, colleges, secondary and elementary schools.

Mayville said while the visiting team from WASC saw many great attributes, the school was lacking in to-the-letter documentation processes. Further, she said, the school's paperwork wasn't organized and updated, which she said is to be expected from a school going through major changes.

Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay said that considering Bitney Prep's transition to the Big Picture model of learning, the probation handed down isn't really a surprise.

"It wasn't totally unexpected, but you always hope not to get it," Lay said. "It's a two-year process. They will do a visit in two years and they will look for the data. Bitney Prep knows what they are supposed to do. Within that time they need to show that their students are growing."

For now, Mayville said the probation isn't affecting the operations of the school as staff prepares to welcome students back on Aug. 15. It's business as usual, she explained, although it will require a bit of extra work on part of the staff, who she said are on board and committed to helping facilitate the changes.

The only thing that would affect students is if Bitney Prep lost accreditation, and that won't happen, Mayville said.

Mayville is entering her first year as director for Bitney Prep. With an extensive background in education, her most recent position was as assistant superintendent/human resources executive with Ventura Unified School District.

Prior to her appointment there, she served as human resources/pupil services director and as a principal for Carpinteria Unified School District.

"We won't lose our accreditation," said Mayville. "There's no way. The things that we need to fix are so easy."

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com or 530-477-4231.