Cutline: Geri Acers, CND master’s graduate, and Diane Guay, education department chair, teamed up for a three-day accreditation visit.

On a pleasant day in March, Dr. Diane Guay was serene in the midst of an academic storm.

“This is a three-day accreditation visit. It comes about every five years; a team of nine experienced education professionals comes to assess the entire program,” she said.

It was accreditation week in the education department at College of Notre Dame. The department’s student lounge and meeting room were packed with principals and superintendents, making the whole shebang ground zero for Bart Simpson.

The investigation would decide if College of Notre Dame had a good plan, good people and were following their own procedures. After 11 years as chair of the department, with one accreditation under her belt, Guay was confident, but alert.

Guay dealt with reimbursement for refreshments, checked in on the accreditation team then spent a quarter-hour in her quiet office. She admitted to having spent a sleepless night or two.

Outside her office, the accreditation team, officially known as the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, was delving into every nook and cranny of department business.

Guay indicated boxes of neat files containing complete details of every program the department offers. Team members would go through them carefully before the examination was over.

Education has been elemental to Guay’s life since she started college at the University of California, Riverside.

She finished her bachelor’s of science degree at California State University, Hayward, taught school in San Francisco and Burlingame and continued her own education. She earned two master’s degrees from CND, one in teaching and another in public administration. An early uberĀ­mom, “family was there all the time right along with me,” she said.

“I finished an administrative credential, found this wonderful job and thought working in the heart of downtown San Francisco would be a lot of fun,” she said. From 1981 to 1987 she was principal at Notre Dame des Victoires on Grant Street in the City. While there she earned her doctorate at the University of San Francisco, one of the first universities to offer evening classes for graduate students.

When she heard about the opening at CND for an education department chair, “I thought, ‘well, jeez, I’d really like to do that,’ ” she said.

Now, 11 years later, a team of education professionals was preparing to pass judgment on her program. “All the members of the commission have gone through three days of training for their work,” said Phil Fitch, an accreditation consultant who helps both sides in the process.

The team spent the morning interviewing graduates, teachers and students and going through the files. Initial paperwork and interviews were so good people were joking about wrapping it up early, Fitch said.

Fitch started working with CND in December of 1996 to prepare for the commission’s visit. “It takes the school about 15 months to put together their accreditation paperwork,” said Guay. The commission, made up mostly of principals and others in educational academia, spends time interviewing faculty and former and current students. After 45 years, CND seems to have the situation well in hand.

California just set new standards for the preparation of school administrators.

Out of 50 programs to train school administrators, “the College of Notre Dame was the only one who got a first review and approval at the end of that review. They did a beautiful job. All others at one time or another had been sent back for further work,” said Fitch, an obvious admirer of the CND program.

Over the years Guay has been at CND, the number of students in the education program has more than tripled. “I think we had a grand total of about 100 students throughout several different programs and now we’re well over 300,” she said.

Guay will find out the results of the examination in just two days. When the commission finishes, they issue a preliminary finding and recommendation, then submit their report for review. Schools can be denied accreditation, they can be accredited with reservations or be fully accredited, a clean bill of health.

Guay is ready. “The college provides the course work, the college has the program that is approved, but when the student is finished, the college does not give the credential. That’s why we have this team here,” she said.

Like any well prepared administrator, Guay had no real fear the college would lose accreditation. She was obviously very well prepared and interested in any advice the commission could give her.

Geri Acers, a master’s graduate called to interview with the commission, had had Guay as an instructor.

“She’s a very tough cookie, very demanding and not going to let you get by with anything but high quality,” Acers said.

A few days later, Guay got the final word on the examination. “We passed with flying colors,” she said. The department received a special commendation for leadership in the unit and commendations across the board for meeting cross-cultural mandates from across the state,” she added.

This article was written by William Cracraft/Freelance News Service and first published in 1998 in the 75th Anniversary Edition tabloid published by Alameda News Paper Group. Any accompanying photos were also taken by William Cracraft. It is reproduced here as a portfolio piece.


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