Lee CYSS School Age Center gains expedited national accreditation
October 9, 2013
FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 9, 2013) --The Fort Lee CYSS School Age Center -- one of four FMWR-operated child care facilities on Fort Lee -- has earned expedited accreditation from the Council of Accreditation with no "out of compliance ratings in any of the fundamental practice or core standards."
"This is awesome news," said Col. Paul K. Brooks, garrison commander. "It is great work by the entire team and a testament to the quality of the people we have here!"
"This speaks highly of the facility director's and the staff's dedication, commitment and knowledge," said Donna L. Nelson, chief, Youth and School Services. "A 100- percent compliance is both outstanding and amazing."
"We were surprised to hear from the council so quickly and are so very proud to become accredited," said Geraldine Ragin, School Age Center director. "Earning an expedited accreditation of no findings is an even greater accomplishment and a tribute to our entire staff."
The news quickly spread through the center on Oct. 3 when the notification was received, she said. "Everyone was excited."
The center has 19 staff members and provides before and after-school care for about 120 children in first through fifth grades. A popular Summer camp program also is offered June through August.
COA is a national accreditor of after-school programs in the United States and on U.S. military installations worldwide. In addition, COA offers program accreditation for early childhood education programs and youth development (teen) programs.
To earn accreditation, the center underwent through a yearlong process that was organized in three separate sections -- administration, human resource and programming. It began with the preparation of written evidence of compliance with the applicable COA standards known as a self study. This comprehensive process took many months by the center's staff to develop, review and submit to the accrediting body.
Ragin said the COA staff could have sent it back with questions or concerns. However, the self study met the standards required by the association.
In the final phase, a group of specially trained site reviewers made a two-day site visit on Sept. 24-25 to confirm that the School Age program was adhering to these standards by conducting a series of interviews with many of the staff members, children and a number of parents/guardians.
The interview team randomly selected all the individuals to interview and classes to observe, she said.
"With the children, they casually talked with them in their classrooms," said Ragin. "These sessions were more like conversations. We did not prepare the children in anyway."
This was the center's first time attempt to seek accreditation from COA and had previously been accredited by the National Afterschool Association, said Ragin.
After the visit, the reviewers met with their Accreditation Commission staff. Normally, the association provides recommendations for further evidence to demonstrate implementation of compliance, she said. However, COA had no recommendations or questions and moved ahead with the expedited accreditation.
"Accreditation demonstrates that your program is recognized as an after school provider that successfully implements high-performance standards," said Richard Klarberg, president and CEO of the COA.
"As such, it is delivering the highest quality services to all of its children, youth and families." He called the expedited performance an "amazing achievement."
"COA is proud to recognize the Fort Lee Child, Youth and School Services School Age Program as one of these outstanding providers," he continued. "We wish you the very best in your continuing work with the children, youth and families you serve."
"Going thru the COA process was pretty straightforward," said Ragin who has been facility director since 2008. "It allowed us the opportunity to complete an honest review of our procedures. This process has provided us with a framework that enables us to demonstrate accountability to our children, families and community. Having this endorsement offers our families confidence in the services that we provide."
The accreditation covers four years. During this period, the School Age Center must maintain COA's performance standards including submitting an annual report.