According to an organization that has been accrediting school districts for 125 years, Comsewogue is one of the best in the world. The district earned accreditation by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools, a worldwide leader in accreditation and continuous school improvement.
The lengthy and rigorous process is a self-study that is then evaluated by volunteers from association-member schools during an approximately two-year period. With the distinction, Comsewogue became the only full district of public schools on Long Island recognized by the commission.
“After spending a few days here, I was reminded of a country music song by Eddie Arnold that went something like this: ‘Welcome to my world, won’t you come on in,’” Pat Impreveduto, chair of the Middle States Validation team for Comsewogue’s application, said in a letter to the district breaking the good news. “The team has heard and observed evidence that this is a commonplace in your district. It is evident that staff collaboratively works hard to set this as the expected and not the exception.”
To receive accreditation the district had to conduct self-evaluation in categories like aptitude for growth and improvement; mission, beliefs and profile of graduates; student performance data; district leadership, governance and organization; educational programs and resources; student services and student life; maintenance and operations; school district improvement planning and many more. After evidence of self-evaluation of all the categories was submitted, the commission’s volunteer team had no recommendations for ways to improve Comsewogue’s application, meaning they were well on their way to earning accreditation. About 2,700 schools worldwide have been granted Middle States accreditation.
“It validates things we’re doing,” Superintendent Joe Rella said in an interview. Rella, who has been in the district for 23 years, said he first had the idea to pursue the accreditation about 10 years ago, and added receiving the prestigious honor as a culmination of those efforts ranks at the top of his list of proudest accomplishments in education. Rella likened himself to a baseball manager who often gets credit for “home runs other people hit,” meaning receiving the distinction would not be possible without the other dedicated professionals working in the district. About 200 volunteers worked on the application. “It lifts up our community,” he said. “It’s going to be good for property values. It’s going to be good for just the sense of the community that they’re getting a good value for their dollar.”
Rella added the value of receiving the affirmation that the district is as high quality and special as they always believed they were is invaluable and extremely gratifying. Accreditation is granted on a seven-year basis, so the district now has a long-term plan for continued self-evaluation and improvement to ensure they have their application approved again in 2024.
“We’re not a wealthy district — our community can kind of feel used and abused,” Rella said. “We want to get [word of the accreditation] to the realtors, because the realtors are still in the mindset that we’re the ugly stepchild. Maybe not — maybe we just got a little better looking.”
The district plans to invite members from Middle States, elected officials and other members of the community to celebrate the achievement sometime in mid-June.