by Stephanie Wicks
In April 2018, a visiting committee representing the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) Commission on Independent Schools visited Bishop Marshall School to assess every aspect of our institution, from our mission to our academic programs, student experience, faculty, administration and many other facets of what we offer. We hosted the visiting committee for three days as they conducted observations and interviews with members of our school community. We began the process one year before the committee arrived by conducting a self-study on all of the fifteen standards being assessed by the NEASC committee. After hosting the visiting committee, their observations, commendations and recommendations were summarized in a fifty-three page report.
The Visiting Committee’s Impression of BJAMS
“The culture and climate of Bishop John A. Marshall School visibly reflects a commitment to its mission. The Visiting Committee noted the close, family-like environment immediately. It was clear that the Board Members, Head of School, teachers and parents are completely dedicated to the school and its mission. The school has a strong Catholic identity, yet it is evident that both Catholic and non-Catholic families feel welcomed and a part of the total community. The tone of the school is upbeat, the students are happy and respectful, and clearly there is a sense of school pride.” (Smith and Walters 10)
Notable Commendations for Qualities BJAMS Offers
- A close-knit, family-like community where each child is encouraged to develop his/her gifts and to use these in the service of others
- Strength in promoting its Catholic identity
- An Administration and Head of School who are enthusiastic ambassadors of the School, with a clear sense of core strengths
- Staff members who model the values they hope to instill in their students while praising their talents, strengths, skills and needs
- Focus on providing a safe, healthy environment for students to grow socially, academically and developmentally while being challenged to think critically at an early age
- The integration of real life service experiences into the program that enables students to see how they fit in with the larger world around them
- A strong performance on the TerraNova standardized assessments
- A strong Fine Arts program and the development of students’ artistic talents
Notable Recommendations for the Future
- Review the Social Studies curriculum in accordance with the Vermont Agency of Education Global Citizenship/Social Studies Standards, and in collaboration with the Diocese of Burlington
- Develop consistent and accurate methods to track alumni for the purpose of school marketing, advancement and program improvement
- Consider exploring online student courses and programs to differentiate instruction for students and support individualized learning
- As the school population continues to grow, evaluate the ability to expand the building, specifically the athletic facilities and kitchen
Conclusions from the Visiting Committee
In addition to receiving accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) for the next ten years, the committee reported:
“Bishop John A. Marshall School is fully committed to improving and to the process of accreditation. While the school feels that there are many notable assets in their programs, they are eager to strengthen their programs and policies. Through this process, the entire school community was engaged in thinking about the school and its strengths and weaknesses. The greatest resource that supports the program at Bishop Marshall School, however, is the faculty and staff. Over and over during the visit, various members showed how warm, welcoming, and professional the staff is. The staff is passionate about the mission and vitality of the school. They, along with the Head of School and Administration, are the core reason Bishop Marshall School is such a vibrant place to be.
Bishop John A. Marshall School is a gem and may well be the best kept secret in the county.”
Smith, Sister Colleen Therese and Jessica Walters. Visiting Committee Report: Bishop John A. Marshall School. New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. Commission on Independent Schools, 2018.