Sunny Hills earns six-year accreditation status

Principal+Allen+Whitten+%28left%29+shows+the+WASC+certificate+to+English+teacher+Suzanne+Boxdorfer%2C+who+was+the+WASC+coordinator+in+charge+of+producing+a+self-study+report+for+the+visiting+team+in+March+of+last+semester.+The+document+concluded+that++Sunny+Hills+High+School%27s+accreditation+is+valid+until+June+30%2C+2025.+Photo+by+Accolade+photographer+Paul+Yasutake

Principal Allen Whitten (left) shows the WASC certificate to English teacher Suzanne Boxdorfer, who was the WASC coordinator in charge of producing a self-study report for the visiting team in March of last semester. The document concluded that Sunny Hills High School's accreditation is valid until June 30, 2025. Photo by Accolade photographer Paul Yasutake

Elijah Jhee

After a committee’s evaluation of Sunny Hills’ progress in the spring semester, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges [WASC] granted the campus a six-year accreditation term — the best outcome an institution can receive from the organization.

“It was a source of pride to be able to review our progress and present our self-assessment to a WASC committee,” principal Allen Whitten said. “I’m proud of the Sunny Hills community and [our] ability to have great leadership to come together and write a report.”

The WASC team informed Whitten of the accreditation through a June 30 mailed certificate confirming that the school did not need another official visit for six years.

Following the team’s visit on Feb. 24-27, the chairman of the WASC-appointed committee commented about Sunny Hills through a digital report on school wide areas of strength. 

According to the findings, it stated that Sunny Hills has a “strong sense of community and rapport between students, parents and staff” and that the campus offers “many academic and vocational pathway opportunities for students.”

Sunny Hills’ WASC coordinator, English teacher Suzanne Boxdorfer, said the yearlong process in preparing for the March visit promoted unity among the staff.

“I felt very proud of the school because we came together and pulled together something so enormous,” said Boxdorfer, who in the past wrote the 2004 WASC midterm report and coordinated the 2007 WASC visit.  “Our staff has a desire to be better, so nothing was really a surprise to us. From this report, there were things that were very affirming like the way we work together.”

She was referring to the 804-page, self-study WASC document that she compiled with the help of five staff focus groups. The findings featured information on Sunny Hills’ goals, environment and programs for its students. 

“You don’t always think that in a group of 120 adults, there would be so much respect and professionalism,” Boxdorfer said of the focus group members.

Several students were chosen by the school and WASC committee to participate in small group discussions and answer WASC committee questions regarding Sunny Hills’ learning environment, she said. In selecting such representatives, all ranges of academic success as well as school involvement were taken into account.

“I was very happy to hear that we received a perfect accreditation score,” said junior Jenna Beining, one of the students chosen by the school to speak with WASC visitors. “It was very much deserved due to our amazing staff and student body.”

Senior Katya Wang found out about the WASC result from her mom, who is the Parent Teacher Student Association president, and was relieved after hearing that Sunny Hills received a perfect score. 

“I’m pretty happy about our score because since I’m a senior, if we got a low score it might have hurt us going into [college].” said Wang, who participated in the School Culture and Support for Students Personal and Academic Growth group. “I was fairly confident in representing Sunny Hills High School since I was involved in athletics and clubs.”

In accordance with a six-year accreditation term, Boxdorfer said she will work on producing a mandatory interim report to WASC in 2023 to ensure that Sunny Hills is following the guidelines stated in its report.