The Saul Mirowitz Day School – Reform Jewish Academy has recently received accreditation from the Independent School Association of the Central States (ISACS).
“It was an amazing, worthwhile experience and a lot more work than we anticipated,” said Cheryl Whatley, chair of the accreditation process. “It took a lot of cooperation on the parts of the entire school community: parents, teachers, board, staff — anyone connected with the school.
“I think it speaks to the values and quality of the school that we succeeded in being accredited on our first effort with no contingencies, which is quite a feat for a new school.”
Accreditation is not a requirement but there is a certain degree of expectation that private schools seek it, according to assistant head of school Carol Rubin. New schools are not immediately eligible for accreditation. They have to be open a certain number of years and have a certain level of enrollment before undergoing the process for accreditation. SMDS-RJA declared its new school status with the ISACS shortly after the school opened.
Over the past two years the school has been involved in an intense process of self-evaluation. The strengths and challenges in each area were identified and addressed by the parents, faculty, board and individual committees. Committees went over highlights of original survey: the strengths and challenges and plans to meet the challenges. Every facet of the school was discussed, reviewed and evaluated. The areas covered included governance, curriculum, climate, community, personnel, purpose, goals and philosophy. Each committee reported how the mission of the school is brought to life in each area.
Receiving accreditation is an important part of the growth of an independent school, according to head of school Marsha Grazman. It was especially important for a new school, with a new vision: a Reform Jewish day school.
“It’s one thing to create something and another thing to make it real,” Grazman said.
The staff and faculty were especially gratified to be observed and evaluated by outside experts. The accreditation team came out to the school for four days and went over every corner of the school’s processes and products. Rubin said the team saw the enthusiastic students at the school and the wonderful relationships between children and teachers.
“We were recognized by our professional peers,” Rubin said. “What we have written and created lives.”
“It validates what we have been saying: We’re an incredible parent community and child-centered community,” Grazman said. “It is the validation of the integration of education: authentic Judaic values are weaved throughout all the curricula areas. We are also true to our tenets of our religion: choice through knowledge.”
The importance of having a Reform Jewish day school in the community was the reason for Whatley’s involvement. She became chair of the accreditation committee and was previously the vice president of the SMDS-RJA board even though her own daughter is grown and off to college.
“We already had Conservative and Orthodox day schools in our community,” Whatley said. “However, a large percentage of our community are Reform Jews. The Reform Jewish Academy completes St. Louis’ rich Jewish education community.”
“It’s another step in the journey for this school,” school board president Marc Bluestone said. “It gets better every day. It is a tremendous validation of all that’s been done already.”