Brooks’ tight-knit relationships, cozy campus and bold mission statement thoroughly impressed the New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ visiting committee members, who were gathering information for their accreditation report while on campus earlier this month.
“It’s a really good process as school to be reflective; to step out of business-as-usual and try to understand what works well and what you need to work on,” said Holderness’ Head of School Phillip Peck, who chaired the committee. “There’s a lot to be proud about at Brooks School.”
Brooks is currently undergoing its 10-year NEASC accreditation renewal, a process that school administrators began back in Spring 2009. A significant number of community members — faculty, staff, trustees, parents and alumni — self-assessed the school’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to 14 standards. The result of their work: a 122-page self-study report.
“The school did an excellent job of taking this process seriously,” said Academic Dean Lance Latham, who’s acted as project manger throughout the accrediation process. “This came at a good time for us, as we move forward with (Head of School) John Packard’s own vision for the school.”
In turn, an 11-member committee comprised of educators from other area secondary schools conducted roughly 150 interviews on campus last week to reaffirm that the self-study was on point.
Through these interviews, the committee deemed the school’s distinguishing characteristic to be found in the strong relationships between adults and students.
“Brooks has a very involved faculty and staff; very engaged parents and students,” said Peck, who has served as chair or vice chair during four previous accreditations. “It’s a very functional family in a warm community with real trust between students and faculty. That warm relationship piece is palpable and really defines Brooks.”
Peck perceived this emphasis on quality relationships to harken back to the school’s core values and its mission statement: “We seek to provide the most meaningful educational experience our students will have in their lives.” The committee was quite impressed with the boldness of Brooks’ mission statement, declaring it to be memorable, aspirational and inspirational, as well as distinctive yet true to Brooks’ core values.
Peck also noted that the committee loved the ambiance of Brooks’ campus. Without pretension, the school has maintained the feel of its farming roots while moving forward in the infrastructure arms race so many boarding schools are competing in.
And the visiting committee was impressed with the smooth transition of a new head of school during the global financial meltdown.
“Throughout our time at Brooks we were impressed by the community’s warmth, transparency and desire to grow,” the committee wrote in its report. “The first two core values accompanying the mission – empathy and engagement – were evident in every meeting we had with members of the community: students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and trustees. The Visiting Committee was impressed by the level of planning and self-assessment that the Brooks community did in preparation for this re-accreditation process. And the community’s drive to be better, which begins with the head of school and the leadership team at Brooks, is firmly and obviously grounded in their high calling to provide ‘the most meaningful educational experience in their students’ lives.’ Brooks is truly a learning community.”
Once the school receives the visiting committee’s entire report, which tops 50-pages itself, it must follow-up on the group’s recommendations on areas that could stand improvement within the next few years.
“I am deeply appreciative of the time, thought, and care Phil and his team of 11 took to learn our school, think with us about our challenges, and leave us with both a strong sense of affirmation about our direction and a clearer sense of how we might deepen that work over the years ahead,” Head of School John Packard said.
NEASC Visiting Committee
Chair | R. Phillip Peck | Head of School, Holderness School
Assistant Chair | Jennifer Chandler | Dean of Academics and Faculty, Miss Hall's School
Ronald Banay | Mathematics Department Head | Middlesex School
Jennifer Berry | Director of Studies | New Hampton School
Michael Bonin | Head of English Department |Portsmouth Abbey School
Arthur Diaz | Chief Financial Officer | Pomfret School
Katherine Greene | Fine Arts Department Chair | George Stevens Academy
Mara Lytle | Dean of Students | Loomis Chaffee School
Erby Mitchell | Assistant Head of School for Enrollment | Loomis Chaffee School
Stacey Nicholson | Class Dean '11 and Science Teacher | Hotchkiss School
Stephen Solberg | Director of Communications | Holderness School