LATHROP – It took years, but Lathrop High School is now officially an accredited institution of secondary education.
“It tells universities and the community at large that your school is doing what it should be doing, preparing kids to college after high school,” Principal Mike Horwood said, explaining why accreditation is a significant accomplishment for the Spartans’ campus located on the west side of Interstate 5.
“We’re good till 2019,” he said of the length of time the accreditation will be in effect. Accreditation was through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
On the academic level, accreditation is important because graduates will now have an easier time getting accepted to their college of choice. The University of California and California State University systems don’t have to accept the credits from high schools that don’t have accreditation, Horwood said. If a student wants to go to college, there’s a place on the college application that asks if they graduated from an accredited high school, If they answer no, they then have to go through a whole level of paper work as well as conversations with intake counselors to make sure that the classes that they are taking are actually college prep classes, he explained.
The first three years after the high school opened, it functioned under an initial accreditation. During that time, WASC representatives come to the school, take a look around, and indicate what they want to see happen.
“Then you have initial accreditation. You can still function with initial accreditation,” Horwood said.
To achieve the official accreditation, Horwood and his staff “worked exceptionally hard and came together focused on the things that WASC was looking for.”
They sent extensive reports telling the WASC committee “this is what we do, this is where we are at, where our deficiencies are academically,” he explained. They report about “sub-groups that are successful,” and outline improvement plans that they are taking in areas where students are struggling, such intervention classes, improving classroom settings, the school curriculum – “anything that leads to improvement in scores, success and graduation rates.”
WASC officials likewise looked at the school’s “social component. They want to make sure the kids are engaged,” the principal explained. They had conversations with students who were picked at random. They talked to members of the Association of Student Body as well as those in the Leadership program, asking them what they thought about a variety of things regarding their school. They also had parent meetings.
“It’s very extensive. It’s a very involved and engaged process,” said Horwood of the process leading up to the school being approved for accreditation.
Everything went “exceptionally well,” he said.
Lathrop High received the longest accreditation period possible – six years.
“You want to get that six-year accreditation,” the Spartan campus principal said.
After that, WASC will come back and go through the same process for another round of accreditation. UC and CSU colleges go through the same process except their accreditation go for a ten-year cycle because of the size of their organizations.
“It’s a very good accomplishment,” Horwood said of Lathrop School’s accreditation attainment.
His goal as the top administrator of the Lathrop’s first ever high school is “to make Lathrop High School the best high school in the Manteca Unified School District.”
“I love being here,” said Horwood who holds a Ph.D. in education.
He is only the second principal to hold the helm at the school. He succeeded David Chamberlain who was the first permanent principal to be appointed. Prior to that, Lathrop High was under two interim principals – Rick Arucan who was the retired principal at Sierra High School in Manteca, and Bob Wallace who was a retired Escalon Unified School District superintendent.
Mossdale Elementary, Joseph Widmer, Sr. Elementary, and Lathrop Elementary are the three feeder schools for Lathrop High.