Staunton School Superintendent on Bessie Weller Elementary's 3rd Accreditation Denial

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The Standards of Learning (SOLs) tests determine a schools accreditation status. For the third year in a row Bessie Weller Elementary School in Staunton has been denied accreditation.

When it comes to the SOLs, Bessie Weller has gained 54 percentage points across all four subjects in the last two years. 

“Bessie Weller’s gone up eight points in English, nine points in math, 13 points in history, and 24 points in science, so they've made good growth,” said Staunton School Superintendent Garett Smith.

But Smith says it's not quite enough to get them over the hump when it comes to English. “They are at 65 percent pass rate and they've got to get to 75 so they're still 10 points away.” 

Smith attributes the big growth in test scores to previous school leadership. But Bessie Weller has a history of high turnover in administration and staff. Donald Rhodes, new this year, is the third principal at Bessie Weller in the last five years.

“When you have high turnover it's really hard to get traction because you're starting all over again at the beginning of every year,” Smith said.

Smith has seen schools come out of denied accreditation status. “It’s just a matter of getting the right leader and when you have the right leader, teachers will stay to work for that leader and then you'll see progress.”

Ten points of gain in a single year is a tall order but according to Smith, it is not impossible. “We’re working hard to get it right.  We don't think there's any reason Bessie Weller can't perform at the same level as Ware and McSwain.”

Two elementary schools in Waynesboro, Wenonah and William Perry, have also been denied accreditation. This is their second year.

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