November 2, 2023

As a member of the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS), TDS must apply for reaccreditation every five years. This rigorous process, which began more than a year ago, has three components: compliance, growth, and review.

The compliance portion contains 63 standards related to best practices in the following six areas: mission; governance and leadership; teaching and learning; stakeholder communication and relationships; resources and support systems; and virtual learning. Gathering information from multiple sources, Amie Tedeschi, our fabulous Accreditation Coordinator, comprehensively explained how TDS meets each of these standards and also provided the necessary documentation in all 63 cases.

The more interesting portion of the re-accreditation process involves identifying areas of growth and then crafting a plan to address each of these areas. Several months ago, the TDS administration and faculty debated several ideas before settling on five areas: growing and enhancing our arts program; strengthening DEI within our community; improving our sustainability practices and curriculum; broadening the impact of service learning at TDS and within the wider community; and refining our social-emotional learning program. For each of these, a team of faculty and administrators assessed where we are now by surveying different groups, investigated best practices, established a vision of where we’d like to be, and crafted a plan, a roadmap toward our goal.

All five areas mentioned above have their roots in the TDS mission, core values, and most recent Strategic Plan. They range from historical pillars of strength (our attention to social-emotional learning) to newer initiatives (teaching environmental sustainability). We did not wait for the SAIS process to conclude before moving forward. Just as one example related to service learning, thanks to Coach Nye, we have established a relationship with Urban Community Agrinomics at Catawba Trail Farm, a Durham-based non-profit focused on local harvesting, education, and donating food to those in need. Several classes have taken field trips to the farm, and TDS students and families now regularly volunteer there on the weekends. Please contact Samantha Lazar for more information about this. We look forward to continued meaningful progress across all five of these areas in the months ahead.

The final phase of the SAIS process involves review by peers. In our case, TDS was fortunate to have three experienced independent school professionals – Christy Lusk (Head of LS at Bolles School in FL), Kendra Reasor (Assistant Head of School at Bright School in TN), and Patrick Snead (Head of MS at Stratford Academy in GA) – spend three days on campus a few weeks ago. This trio visited classes, interviewed all constituencies (students, faculty & administration, parents, and Trustees), read countless documents, and ultimately offered sage guidance related to our self-identified areas of growth. In short, they got to know us quite well over the course of three days.

Amidst a plethora of more specific commendations and recommendations – and a unanimous vote in favor of reaccreditation – I felt proud and pleased that our team honed in on what makes TDS truly unique. In their words: “TDS is truly living out its mission through every aspect of the student experience. How special it is that children are known for who they are and respected as unique individuals.” That, in essence, is TDS.

cutout paper leaves with students' statements of what they're grateful forHeartfelt Connections
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