I am quite proud of myself, for today I officially said no to a request. As time goes by, I have been invited to participate in some really fascinating projects. When I'm interested in something, it is hard for me to decline to participate. This particular request was to participate in an accreditation visit to a school. Accreditation visits are fun, intense, exhausting, and interesting. Many people don't know about the accreditation process.
Accreditation through WASC, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, is an intense but straightforward process. It is a self-study for the school - there's an outline to follow, but essentially the school takes a long, hard look at itself to determine its strengths and weaknesses, especially in light of the mission. The school body writes up a very long document outlining who they are. Then a small team of people from other schools - 3 or 4 - come in for a multi-day visit to determine if the document is accurate. They observe classes, meet members of the community including the school board, teachers, students, and often parents. The team writes a response and sends it and a recommendation for a term of accreditation to the governing body who makes the final decision.
The most interesting thing to me about the process is that accreditation isn't about whether you're a "good" school. It is really about whether you do what you say. The example I give is snake charming (which came from an online discussion where a friend of mine accused my school of being a Wacky Ass Snake Charming school.) If you are a snake charming school, your mission is to teach children to charm snakes, and what you do is teach children to charm snakes, then you can probably be accredited. If your mission is to teach children to charm snakes and instead you teach children to raise hippos, then you will probably not be accredited. Obviously, there's some hyperbole there. But the visiting team has to work pretty hard to keep their own biases out of it - it doesn't matter if you teach the "right" English or Math, as long as you actually teach what you say you do. If you represent yourself to potential families accurately and they choose you, then all's well. If you lie, then there's a problem.
I find the whole idea very comforting. There's something about the idea that it doesn't matter who you are as long as you are completely yourself that is very freeing.