The CAIS and WASC accreditors spent four days visiting classrooms, engaging in group and individual discussions, carefully reviewing our 183-page self-study document, so they could evaluate the full operations and educational program of MMS. After 18 months of work, we are pleased to share a small prologue from the Accreditor’s report, which was read aloud in full on Wednesday.
We won’t receive the full report and term timeline until May or June after the CAIS Board of Standards reviews the findings. Those of us present at the reading felt very encouraged by their high regard for our program and were in complete alignment with the recommendations for further development. Please read this lovely piece written as the opening by Angela Howell, the Director of Development from Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena.
By Angela Howell, Director of Development from Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena
The reading of a final report from a WASC accreditation is not always the most scintillating experience, so we wanted to give a personal preamble to include impressions of our experience…and so I begin..
From sunrise to sunset, the Mount Madonna experience is truly magical. It is rare that one participates on an Accreditation Team in such an inspiring environment. At sunrise, one hears the morning song of the wild turkey and to the sound of bells ringing and the smell of incense. The moon setting and the sun rising—so begins a day on the mountain. But, as educators, we could not help but delight in the joy of a new day of school as experienced at Mount Madonna School as adults greet students at the bus stop with loving care. We witnessed the excitement bubble within each child as they began their new day. As visitors to your school, it also became very clear that no two days at Mount Madonna School are alike. Learning is characterized by wonder and adventure and each constituency of the community understands and appreciates the unique qualities that characterize your school. Your pride is a palpable and we felt this when talking to every constituency group associated with the school.
The students who were interviewed by members of our team were honest and candid about the strengths and weaknesses of their school. No rose colored glasses for them, but their honest observations were cast in the deepest appreciation for the richness of their school experience. They know that what they have at Mount Madonna is unparalleled and they don’t want to miss a day of school. They love their teachers who (I quote) “encourage you to do your best.” Students appreciate the warm relationships they enjoy with their teachers. They love their buddy program, the fun of the all-school productions, their growing athletic program, the way they are prepared to advance from one level of learning to the next. They love their trips—extraordinary experiences that everyone participates in—from rafting, to ocean exploration, to the study of government in situ, to the extraordinary international trips to India and South Africa. What opportunities—what transformative experiences! And, in the words of a student who transferred to Mount Madonna School from a public school, “This school is easy to come to as everyone knows who you are. It is inclusive.”
The parents are equally enthusiastic and appreciative of the incredible program and people at this school. They commented that they selected Mount Madonna School because of the outstanding student-centered curriculum that created young adults with global understanding, values and self-confidence. They feel that the school environment is magical because of the people who work here because they truly care. They also felt that the outstanding performing arts program helped their children build confidence, poise and excellent public speaking skills. While parents valued the outstanding volleyball program, they were excited about the opening of the new gymnasium and the future expansion plans for the athletic program. Parents also praised the amazing travel-study program in the middle and upper schools. Overnight fieldtrips for middle school students, trips to Sacramento, Catalina Island for science exploration, India, South Africa and Washington DC are exceptional opportunities that truly distinguish the school. The buddy program links the older students with the younger students and these bonds last for years beyond their Mount Madonna days. “If you bring your children to Mount Madonna School, then you get to know the magic.” Another parent said, “It takes a village to raise our kids.”
On Mount Madonna, the groves of sequoia trees stand tall—much like your students. The trees are gathered closely together in groups of seven, eleven, fifteen or more, and their branches overlap and connect. These majestic trees sparkle with life and are grounded to this sacred earth. So too are your students, as they stand confidently, grounded in a most extraordinary soil of learning and peace, in a place filled with wonderful people. All of you here are “the magic of Mount Madonna School” and we are confident that this school and your children will live, grow and thrive for generations to come.