Elmira's Holy Family schools earn accreditation - Catholic Courier

Elmira’s Holy Family schools earn accreditation

The structure of Elmira’s Holy Family Catholic School system is changing but, according to a prestigious national accrediting organization, its quality of education remains high.

Holy Family’s high standards were affirmed this past spring when it received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Elementary Schools. All three Holy Family schools — the primary (prekindergarten through grade 3), intermediate (grades 4-6) and junior high (grades 7-8) — earned this prestigious designation.

MSCES is part of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, which was established in 1887 to set standards for American education by recognizing past achievements and commitment to future accomplishments. Holy Family joins Corning’s All Saints Academy as the only Catholic schools in the Southern Tier thus far to receive MSCES accreditation as part of a diocesanwide effort to have all Catholic schools earn the distinction. There are now 13 diocesan schools to have become accredited.

Holy Family began the accreditation process with a rigorous 30-month self study that involved committees and subcommittees comprising faculty, staff, parents and students. Strict MSCES criteria were examined in such areas as mission and goals; leadership and governance; integrity; educational effectiveness; school-improvement planning; finances; facilities; climate and organization; health and safety; and student services and activities.

The committees summarized their self-study findings in lengthy reports that were then filed with MSCES. A team of MSCES evaluators then made a thorough on-site visit lasting a few days to weigh whether their observations were consistent with the self study. Accreditation status was then determined based on the self-study summary and evaluators’ report.

"The visit of the accreditation team helped us to see how others perceive us — what they see worthy of nurturing and what areas they find in need of rethinking and renewal," said Elizabeth Berliner, who was principal of Holy Family Junior High School during the process.

As part of its accreditation, Holy Family will in coming years issue progress reports; work on carrying out strategic plans that were required by the accreditation process; and submit to periodic checks and field visits by MSCES.

"We learned a great deal about ourselves, our programs, our families, our students and our staff," Berliner added. "What came forth from the total process was a reaffirmation of our mission of Catholic education and a well-founded plan for moving forward in the months and years ahead to carry out that mission to the fullest."

The MSCES accreditation is one of several recent developments at Holy Family. This fall the system will be consolidated from three school buildings into two, based on declining enrollment and an effort to reduce operational expenses.

Under the new arrangement, which was announced in January 2009, the two schools are known as Holy Family Elementary (pre-K through grade 5) and Holy Family Middle School (grades 6-8). The elementary school is located on the St. Mary Southside campus, former home of the primary school; the middle school is based at St. Casimir, former site of the junior high school. The former intermediate-school building, located at Our Lady of Lourdes, is no longer being used.

Berliner becomes principal of the newly formed middle school, and Bernadette McClelland — who had been principal of the primary school — assumes that position for the elementary school. Brenda Lisi, principal of the former intermediate school, will serve as a seventh- and eighth-grade mathematics teacher at the middle school.

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