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Local education programs accredited

Nov. 30, 2010

By Carman Galvan
Staff Writer

Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas in Waco and of Bell-Coryell Counties in Fort Hood have achieved national accreditation, the Texas Education Agency announced Monday.

The affiliates tested and passed the Communities In Schools Total Quality System standards. The standards measure the affiliates' nonprofit business practices and how well the Communities In Schools model of integrated student support services in schools has been implemented, a press release from the agency stated. The Texas Education Agency said the Communities In Schools national office developed the Total Quality System standards in order to set guidelines that ensure uniform quality and improved student experience.

"It's basically like a stamp of approval," said Doug McDurham, CEO of Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas and lecturer in Baylor's School of Social Work. "The standard that we had to meet in the application process covered two things: programming and business standards. The purpose of our agency is to help ensure that our students are successful in school by addressing non-academic barriers, and part of the standard to help meet that goal is our programming -- that we are reaching students and have appropriate services. The other half is the business standard, that the agency is functioning well as a nonprofit."

McDurham said that after a year and a half process, the Heart of Texas affiliate received accreditation in July and was the first program to receive the accreditation in Texas. The Bell-Coryell Counties affiliate received its accreditation last month, said Mary Barr, executive director of Communities In Schools of Bell-Coryell Counties.

"It took a little more than a year to work through the entire process," Barr said. "It was very detailed and very involved."

McDurham said the process helped the affiliate strengthen as a whole.

"Basically, going through the process really made us step back and look at what we are doing and how we are doing it," McDurham said. "It really forced us to be stronger and better and more research-based in our work."

The Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas will also receive a small grant through the state Communities In Schools office as an incentive to encourage and mentor other affiliates going through the process, McDurham said.

Barr said she was thrilled when she received the news.

"We are very flattered and very relieved and glad it's done," Barr said.

"I'm very proud of the program. It's an exceptional program and I'm very proud of the staff. They've done a lot of exceptional things to help children who live in a very challenging environment."

McDurham also emphasized that the accreditation reaches Communities In Schools' partners as well, including Baylor University's School of Education, School of Social Work, Financial Aid and student volunteers.

"When we shared locally that we had gotten the accreditation, one of the things we wanted to emphasize is not just the stamp of approval for what we do but also for all our partners," McDurham said. "We consider Baylor to be one of those partners. We have a lot of connections with Baylor and we very much believe those connections to Baylor help make us successful as an organization."