Accreditation. It’s important. It is an all-inclusive evaluation of a school from those within the school community as well as from representatives of other schools. There are requirements for accreditation. It keeps schools in check and assists with its operations, especially independent schools who, other than state compulsory attendance laws, are not governed or monitored by a state board of education to determine standards, develop curriculum, admit students or hire teachers. The evaluation provides data and feedback to make continuous improvements in all areas of a school operation. The accreditation is based on the evaluation of the school to determine if it not only meets the needs of the students and community, but also the standards of the commission.
Just after the first brick-and-mortar school building was erected on the Wallace O’Neal School campus, Headmaster Bob Haarlow set his sights on another goal – to be accredited before the school conducted its first graduation. It was 1975 and the Class of 1977, the first graduating class, was approaching. The accrediting association was called the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Public schools are also required to use this accrediting association. SACS has since changed its name to AdvancED and now is called COGNIA. In 1975 committees were created to address all aspects of the school and its curriculum. The committees were comprised of trustees, administration, faculty, and parents. They commenced a 2-year self-study on Wallace O’Neal Day School as part of the accreditation process. In April of 1977, an accreditation committee visited O’Neal for two days. It was chaired by George Bell, headmaster of Greenfield School. The committee toured classrooms and acquainted themselves with the nature of the school. They observed and met with teachers, administrators, students, and parents. After the two-day visit, they reported their impressions and recommendations – specifically the recommendation for accreditation. In 1977 the visiting committee was “extremely favorably impressed”. Aspects that were singled out as outstanding was the School’s relaxed atmosphere, its impressive faculty, the full-time school psychologist, and committed student body.
Newspapers also stated that O’Neal was the first independent school in North Carolina to be accredited as a unit school. A unit school accreditation indicates that all grades – one through twelve, have met or exceeded certain quality standards set forth by SACS. More research needs to be done on this statement, as there are many independent schools in North Carolina who are much older than O’Neal and surely held some sort of accreditation prior to 1977.
On December 12, 1977, at SACS 82nd annual meeting in New Orleans, Headmaster Haarlow received official word of the School’s accreditation. This marked a huge milestone for O’Neal. We were considered by a regional accreditation association, and in turn by colleges and universities, as a legitimate educational institution worthy of its services and its graduates.
In 2002, The Southern Association of Independent Schools began to offer accreditation. Only two years after, in 2004, the SAIS and SACS joined forces for a dual accreditation process. From this point on, O’Neal has received dual accreditation from SACS and SAIS.
The regional SAIS accreditation is also a requirement for membership to the NAIS – National Association of Independent Schools whose main purpose is to be a national voice for independent schools and serve as a center for collective action in their behalf.
O’Neal is currently conducting its self-study for the re-accreditation process. The School will welcome the visitation committee within the next year.
Accreditation happens every five years unless there is an approved request for an extension (or a pandemic).
Falcons Fly to 50
O’Neal is excited to share its history with readers as it quickly nears its 50th year in educating and cultivating youth in becoming successful, effective contributors to communities large and small. The official celebration starts school year 2021/2022. This weekly blog will focus on different aspects of the School as it grew through the years. With every entry, there is just as much more information to gather than what is already written. Readers who have been a part of the O’Neal community are encouraged to reach out and share their O’Neal memories. It is with great hope that the efforts of many in contributing information and photography can be published into a book for reflection and reference as the School continues to prosper for the next 50 years.
Please send your memoirs and photos to:
The O’Neal School
c/o Kathy Taylor, Director of Communications
P.O. Box 290
Southern Pines, NC 28388