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Sierra on track with strategic planning

Progress on accreditation recommendations moving forward, college says
By: Jenifer Gee, Journal Staff Writer
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It’s been nine months since Sierra College was handed four warnings from a national accreditation board, and officials say they are feeling confident about their progress in meeting those recommendations. In January, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges made the recommendations, and on Wednesday the college will submit its progress report in an effort to maintain its accreditation. “I think we’re making substantial progress,” said Leo Chavez, Sierra College president. “I think what the accrediting commission has done is basically speed up the work we’ve already initiated.” The commission recommended that the college amend its mission statement, plan development and improvement steps, identify student-learning outcomes, and have the board complete a yearly self-evaluation. The first and fourth recommendations can already be checked off the college’s to-do list, said Sue Michaels, marketing/public relations supervisor. Michaels was one of the college representatives on the committee to revise the mission statement. For the second recommendation, Michaels said it’s a matter of streamlining each of the college’s departments and lining up their goals. For example, she said one department my have a goal to build another campus in the county while another might write that they don’t want to build. Michaels said the new plan would combine the goals and prioritize them. She said the college is developing an overall strategic plan that is “very, very close to being complete.” “It’s been a challenging process but we’ve managed to make huge progress,” Michaels said. “It’s really helped us organize.” Sierra College has always had the goal of recommendation three in mind, Michaels said, but the accreditation committee asked for a measurement of the success of the college’s student learning goals. She said one example is the marketing department needs to advertise about services like tutor centers. If students can’t find tutor centers, then the success rate could possible decrease. Michaels said the marketing department needs to identify how to track that progress. When contacted, an official from Western Association of Schools and Colleges declined to comment about the process, citing board policies not to discuss specific colleges. She instead referred to the association’s Web site, which states they do not rank colleges. Michaels added that the recommendations also came with praise. Among the commendation’s given to Sierra College, the accreditation board recognized the school for its commitment to student success. It listed the college’s spirit as one of its best assets. Overall, Chavez said the accreditation requirements are just one aspect of the college’s priorities. “I think the important thing for us to understand is that (the recommendations) are really important but not central to the process of teaching and learning,” Chavez said. “Nothing in that accreditation report indicates we’re doing anything but a good job in what we’re here to do and that’s teaching.” The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.