At around 6pm on Saturday night, a roomful of proud parents and faculty members of The New School anxiously awaited a brief speech by Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan.
The group was gathered to celebrate the school’s recent award of full accreditation by ISACS (Independent Schools Association of Central States).
While the Mayor wasn’t the only one giving toasts during the ceremony – Chamber President Steve Clark and other area leaders were on hand as well – he was certainly the only one giving a proclamation naming May 2, 2009 as The New School Day.
When I first crouched down on the floor with my camera, it felt like any other event in town but by the time each speaker had finished and the crowd had stopped clapping, I could barely stand up. Part of that was because my right foot had fallen asleep but part of it was that there was a sense of pride and accomplishment in the room thick enough to slow anyone down.
The New School has been a Northwest Arkansas staple of the independent school community since 1971 when it first opened here in Fayetteville as a non-profit organization with twenty-four students. Today, the school has an enrollment of over 430 students ranging in age from two to thirteen years old.
Known best for its enrichment in the arts, The New School also boasts a favorable student-teacher ratio, challenging academic standards and a consistent high rank for standardized test scores in the region.
Speaking of the seven-year accreditation cycle which provides validation regarding the quality of the school’s programs, Executive Director Bill Mandrell said, “The hard work of the faculty, staff and trustees demonstrated their tremendous dedication to our school and toward the concept of school improvement.”
The New School was visited and evaluated by the ISACS Accreditation Visiting Team in the spring of 2008 as one of the final steps before becoming accredited. The cycle will be completed in two years with the submission of a Progress Report, which will be evaluated by the Evaluation Review Committee and acted upon by the ISACS Board.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the La Fiesta Fundraiser which was held directly after the ceremony that evening. Besides enjoying some excellent local jazz (Nathan McLeod, Claudia Burson and others), I bidded on (and lost) a few items in the silent auction, ate some tasty Mexican food and drank a beer or two (or six).
Before Saturday, I’d never stepped foot in the school’s doors but by the time the night was over, I’d spent nearly 5 hours soaking up The New School vibe. I now know what all the fuss is about.