Darlington School has achieved reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Independent Schools.
“SAIS accreditation is validation of Darlington’s efforts to provide the highest quality education possible for our students each day,” said Head of School Brent Bell. “We are grateful to all those who participated in the process, particularly Dana Peek who led our accreditation team, and the Visiting Committee, chaired by O.J. Morgan of The Bright School. Their understanding of both the tradition and ambition of Darlington supports us as we continue to empower our students to learn with passion, act with integrity, and serve with respect.”
Darlington’s accreditation self-study focused on the school’s 2015-2016 Strategic Plan, a living document that will guide the direction of the school into the future. In order to formulate the plan, an extensive stakeholder survey was disseminated in December 2015 with its analysis revealing four important areas for future work and growth, which are now called the four strategic pillars.
They are as follows:
1. Relevance of Program
2. Student Experience
3. Financial Vitality
4. Lifelong Leadership and Learning.
In their final report, the Visiting Team shared commendations and recommendations related to each of these areas.
“Our commendations are numerous, but in general the team was impressed by how well the school spoke in a unified voice as to what it values most and the challenges ahead,” said Morgan during a meeting with the full faculty and staff on the last day of the site visit. “This speaks to the comprehensive, mission-driven nature of the self-study process and the focused leadership of the head of school and those tasked with carrying out the self-study.
“A common thread throughout our conversations was the sense of a genuine community spirit,” he continued. “Relationships between students and teachers are strong, and parents feel they have an active and constructive role in the life of the school. The alumni expressed as well a deep devotion to the school and the memories they have carried with them throughout their adult lives. Darlington is a kind and welcoming community about which there is much to be proud.”
As with most schools like Darlington, rising tuition, an increasingly competitive admissions market, the changing demographics of boarding communities, and growing demands for space for a variety of programmatic needs all present both challenges and, at the same time, opportunities for future growth and success.
“What should give the school comfort is the clear vision and strong leadership of its head of school and administrative team, as well as the dedication among faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, and trustees to move forward in an organized and thoughtful fashion to secure Darlington’s continuing success,” said Morgan.
Accreditation is voluntary and must be renewed each year. In addition, the self-study process and peer review visit must be repeated every five years for continued accreditation.
SAIS began its organizational life in 1903 as the Mid-South Association of Independent Schools (MAIS). In 1953, another organization began as the Southern Association of Independent Schools, providing a forum for independent school administrators to work with public schools through SACS and to contribute to the larger interest in accreditation in the Southeast. MAIS and SAIS merged in 1986 to form the present-day SAIS, which now works at the state, regional, and national levels, to serve and strengthen member schools through the promotion of the highest quality educational standards and ethical conduct.