Private school accredited

Published 9:27 pm Monday, May 9, 2016

Suffolk Christian Academy has received dual re-accreditation from two educational agencies, the Association of Christian Schools International and AdvancEd.

The re-accreditation validates that the school is moving forward in a positive direction, said Headmaster Tamra VanDorn.

“It gives our program weight to colleges and the state of Virginia,” VanDorn said. “It gives validity to the educational experience at Suffolk Christian … and helps us to continue improving and keeping up with most current trends and expectations in education.”

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Suffolk Christian earned an overall AdvancEd accreditation score of 306 out of a possible 400 points, according to the AdvancEd’s report to the school. The average score of the 32,000 public and private schools with AdvancEd accreditation is 278.

“While we certainly have room for improvement, it is encouraging to note that Suffolk Christian Academy is above average as compared with other schools which have AdvancEd accreditation,” said Ron Ruegsegger, chairman of the Suffolk Christian’s board of directors, in a letter sent to students’ families.

Suffolk Christian — which was formerly known as First Baptist Christian School — was renamed in December 2012 when the school incorporated to become an independent school. Four local churches are partners with the school: Southside Baptist and First Baptist of Suffolk, Westminster Reformed Presbyterian, and Open Door.

The accreditation process takes a significant amount of time and preparation, with all sorts of documentation — including board minutes, student handbooks and financial records — required for analysis, VanDorn said. A team from the accreditation agency also visits to observe teachers in the classroom and evaluate leadership and student engagement.

The assessment also monitors for continuous improvement and growth, VanDorn said.

“Everybody is a part of this process,” she said.

Currently, Suffolk Christian has 30 teachers and 205 students on two campuses, with the lower school housed at Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church and upper school at Southside Baptist Church.

Eventually, VanDorn hopes to see enrollment reach about 300 and for the school to have its own building.

Although it dropped during the Great Recession, enrollment has grown slowly since 2012, she added. Most students are from Suffolk, although a handful come from Gates County, N.C., Ivor and Windsor.