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Better Accreditation Process: Thomas Van Soelen Associate Supt.

Thomas van soelen3 Reviewer: Thomas Van Soelen

Position: Associate Superintendent 

District/School: City Schools of Decatur, Decatur, GA

Number of Students in District/School: 3,062

Product: eBOARD Solutions and First Class

Blog: Thomas Van Soelen Almost Paperless Accreditation


We were hoping for an efficient accreditation process. Every five years I dread all the manila files, labels, and colored crates. There had to be a better way. Secondly, I wasn't looking forward to the traditional committee structure (7 standards = 7 committees) with endless meetings, and report draft, after draft, after draft.

How We Use It:

We were almost 100% paperless for this accreditation visit, both for the necessary report the accreditation team requires AND all the artifacts and evidence they examine while they are in the district.

We wrote our entire Standards Assessment Report using wikis through First Class. Small groups of building and central office educators were virtually teamed for six weeks to complete the work. At the end, we gathered for a face-to-face meeting, and used a text protocol to read and discuss the entire document. That dealt with my committee-phobia--now for all the crates and paper.... We became the first school district to use the Evaluation module in eBOARD as a storehouse for attaching documents and linking to necessary evidence. If only our accreditation team visitors hadn't asked us to print out some of the artifacts...


Regarding the paperless artifact collection--central office and other buildings were thrilled with a paperless process. Gone are the three-inch binders stuffed full of paper! The wikis were a big hit: fewer meetings, because we now had clearer products. Building and central office leaders now have an experience to draw on.

Reviewer’s Notes:

Just finishing an AdvancED review without paper files, or crates was inspirational. It became a running byline, “A copy of that is online, right?” Saving printing costs is certainly important, but the efficiency of employees, that represent the largest expenditure of any school district, is far more important. In shifting existing staff to open a new school next year, we used the original Superintendent’s Staff Meeting item as the storehouse of the most recent Excel worksheets detailing these decisions. We are not checking email for the most recent communication–we know where to go and what to do.

Learning Curve:

The wikis were perfect. We find that building level and district collaboration sometimes does not produce equitable participation. The wikis flattened any perceived hierarchies, and educators that sometimes don't verbally contribute as much were able to have their contributions truly considered. The software would allow me to "dial back" to any previous version of the wiki in case I noted that important content had been deleted and needed to re-emerge.

What's Ahead?:

The Evaluation module in eBOARD worked so well that we’ve now moved our principal and superintendent evaluation onto that platform, too.

As a system charter, all parents on the governance teams must contribute their thinking to principal evaluation. The superintendent then considers all the feedback. eBOARD offered a simple solution toward that end, complete with an Action Planning template to use as the principal examined his/her self-assessment and parent-provided data.


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