2018 SAIS Accreditation Visit Results

Back in September I wrote a blog post here on the Bobcat Blog that explained the SAIS accreditation process that our school was going to be completing in November. We are fresh off of our visit and are excited to share the results with you here. Additionally, we also want to share the results of the Value Narrative Survey that many of you completed as a part of the accreditation self study. This will be shared in an upcoming blog post as well.

The following is a summary of the 2018 accreditation visit that was conducted in November, 2018 and chaired by Mr. Brendan O’Shea. Brainerd Baptist School used the strategic plan that was created by our Board of Trustees in 2013 as the guide for the self-study. The plan focused on improvement in 5 different areas. The visiting team responded to each of the focus points of the strategic plan in their report. Their recommendations and commendations are listed below. We hope that you will take a few minutes and read through the results of many hours (I could even say, weeks, months, and years!) of work that this report represents.

As always, if you have any questions, or would like to have additional discussion about what is in the following summary, please contact me and I will be happy to discuss or explain in more detail.

SAIS Visiting Team Summary Report

Area 1Create a continual feedback loop of all shareholders in the school community that will fulfill and further the mission of Brainerd Baptist School.

Teachers and administrators of the school regularly and successfully gather feedback from shareholders of the Brainerd Baptist School community. The SAIS survey demonstrates parents' complete and thorough satisfaction with their children's educational experiences. Parents and teachers hold multiple conferences throughout the year to report student progress. ERB testing provides feedback to both parents and teachers about individual student's progress as well as progress of various classes. Teachers and school officials use testing results appropriately to review and advance curriculum and document overall school progress.

The visiting team commends the school for the following:

  • Establishing the Foundations and Frameworks (F&F) program to focus on literacy and reading fluency with the intention of strengthening skills and standardized test results;

  • Scoring extremely high on the SAIS parent satisfaction survey;

  • Communicating regularly and efficiently with parents to ensure information is easy to access;

  • Having teachers readily available to communicate personally with parents;

  • Creating a culture of access and harmony between school personnel and parents through intentional programming to focus on retention;

  • Focusing on trying to make the parent experience as smooth and easy as possible for families.

The visiting team recommends that the school consider the following:

  • Sharing the executive summary of the annual survey with community shareholders;

  • Researching the correlation between the Foundations and Frameworks (F&F) program and ERB scores over several years;

  • Continuing to promote the successes of Brainerd Baptist School to the parent community who serve as the school's most important and authentic marketing team.

Area 2Examine and create financial sustainability for Brainerd Baptist School.

Brainerd Baptist School, now a separate entity from Brainerd Baptist Church and its own 501(c)(3), has taken measures to create its own financial reporting system. With a newly hired business manager, Brainerd Baptist School is poised to change internal accounting from a cash basis to an accrual basis, present a balance sheet for review, and develop financial models for the future.

The visiting team commends the school for the following:

  • Taking ownership of the financial management from the church and bringing all financial operations in-house;

  • Establishing an endowment to secure the financial future of the school;

  • Taking advantage of extremely low facilities costs, resulting in significantly lower tuition rates than local competitors;

  • Reducing the school's dependency on the annual fund in the yearly operating budget.

The visiting team recommends that the school consider the following:

  • Restructuring the financial reporting to include accrual-based accounting, balance sheet and other necessary reports;

  • Raising tuition gradually over time to increase endowment funds, to make teacher salaries more competitive, to provide additional financial assistance for families and to create funding for deferred maintenance needs.

Area 3 Examine the school's current plans and policies, updating and creating new plans and policies when necessary to help ensure the school's future.

Brainerd Baptist School has developed clear policies and procedures that facilitate the mission of the school.

The visiting team commends the school for the following:

  • Creating and implementing policies and procedures that support the mission of the school;

  • Cultivating and developing a competent leadership team that is capable of executing the school's plans and policies;

  • Developing a school culture that promotes innovative thinking from all staff members, as evidenced by the number of positive and meaningful enhancements implemented in recent years, including programs such as The 4 C's (carpentry, chess, coding, and cooking);

  • Working toward and successfully establishing a positive working relationship with the leadership of Brainerd Baptist Church.

The visiting team recommends that the school consider the following:

  • Examining continually the relationship between the church and school with consideration given to establishing a written agreement to ensure a lasting, secure and cohesive relationship in the future;

  • Developing a succession plan for school leadership including the head of school and board chairman;

  • Establishing permanent working board committees, such as a finance committee.

Area 4– Communicate our elementary school academic excellence as found in our Christ-centered loving environment, sustained in a cost-effective manner.

Parents affirm they learn about the excellence of Brainerd Baptist School most regularly via word of mouth. Stakeholders in the school community know and proclaim the success of the program through informal methods, often incorporating social media, including the school website and outlets such as Instagram, various blogs written by school personnel, videos, photographs, and the school magazine.

The visiting team commends the school for the following:

  • Developing and protecting the trusting relationship between school personnel and constituents as evidenced by numerous affirmations from parents regarding the school delivering on its promises;

  • Providing as-needed access for parents to school team members to enhance the partnership between families and the school;

  • Clearly communicating, demonstrating and living the mission in every aspect of school life;

  • Having a head of school deeply involved in the admissions process, meeting and touring just about every prospective family who comes to campus;

  • Affirming and motivating all school employees as they initiate innovative student programming.

The visiting team recommends that the school consider the following:

  • Including employees other than the head of school in giving admissions tours to prospective families and training these employees appropriately with the intent of involving more personnel in the process, exposing prospective families to more members of the team, and relieving some of the pressure on the head of school;

  • Developing social media protocols and guidelines for all members of the community to ensure consistent, positive messaging from all members of the community.

Area 5Ensure that the classroom instruction models best practices, are child-centered and engaging.

In every classroom and every conversation, it was evident the teachers were focused on child-centered, developmentally appropriate instruction. The school culture calls for rigor, interest, and high-order thinking skills at each level of instruction. There was clear demonstration of the joy of both teaching and learning throughout the school, and students confirmed their engagement in the educational process with genuine excitement and praise for their school.

The visiting team commends the school for the following:

  • Hiring and supporting a faculty that is dedicated to student development, and exhibits joy in the process;

  • Choosing to focus on the most valuable school asset - the people associated with Brainerd Baptist - working in recent years to enhance faculty salaries and benefits as well as professional growth opportunities;

  • Selecting and instituting a rigorous, challenging curriculum enhanced by the faculty's desire to instill the love of learning in its students;

  • Using creative and innovative approaches to teaching in all grade levels and all subject areas;

  • Providing classrooms spaces that are modern, allow for movement, and appealing to the children.

The visiting team recommends that the school consider the following:

  • Ensuring the careful training and encouragement of teachers continues to be a high priority;

  • Offering opportunities for the school's current parents and potential parents to be introduced to the excellent methods of instruction used in the classrooms;

  • Striving to retain a cohesive and exemplary faculty through continual examination of competitive salaries and benefits as well as opportunities for professional development for all members of the team;

  • Encouraging teachers to share their skills with others at TAIS, SAIS and NAIS conferences.

Summary, Conclusion, and Recommendation

Currently, Brainerd Baptist School is operating from a position of strength. With a healthy enrollment, sound financial position, stable faculty, excellent leadership team, and long-serving head of school, the school is faring well in a highly competitive independent school market. Major strides have been made in recent years, solidifying Brainerd Baptist School's independence from Brainerd Baptist Church as the school now operates as it's own 501(c)(3) entity. To protect it's future, Brainerd Baptist should consider developing succession plans for both the head of school and board chair position, further strengthening the board by establishing standing committees with documented responsibilities, and securing the current facility use agreement with the church going forward. All school constituents should be commended for the efforts put forth to advance the school to the position it currently holds.

Brainerd Baptist is an excellent school. So much can be learned by witnessing a school's culture. This is where Brainerd Baptist truly excels. It is clearly evident that all school personnel are completely engaged in providing the best possible experience for the children in K3-fifth grade. A wholesome, caring, loving environment exists for the children who benefit from a comprehensive and innovative curriculum delivered by an impressive group of educational professionals. The visiting team was impressed with all aspects and components of the school.

The visiting team would like to offer special thanks to Head of School Sean Corcoran and Accreditation Coordinator Missy Henson who both were organized, forthright and hospitable during our stay. We found all factions of the Brainerd Baptist community to be courteous, forthcoming and supportive of school leadership, and most importantly, devoted to the academic foundation and moral development of each child served by Brainerd Baptist School.

Standards Compliance
The school is in compliance with all standards of the SAIS accreditation process as verified by documentation, observations, and interviews.

Self-Study Quality

The self-study conducted by the school meets the standard of quality and thoroughness required by the SAIS accreditation process and answers the four critical questions as outlined in the Guidebook.

The school is unanimously recommended for accreditation.

Sean Corcoran