October 22, 2009

EDITORIAL: For Dr. David Hill, mission accomplished

P lattsburgh State has its prized national accreditation for its teacher-education program, and two people are largely credited with acquiring it: Dr. David Hill, dean of education, health and human services; and Dr. Robert Golden, retired provost of the university, who hired him.

It's almost unimaginable that Plattsburgh State, which has been teaching teachers for almost a century, could have lost its teacher-education program — the backbone of the college during its entire existence. But that would have been the outcome had Hill not navigated the rough waters leading to accreditation.

For years, the New York State Regents certified teacher-education programs at SUNY schools. That ended five years ago, transferring the responsibility for accreditation to the individual schools through certifying organizations.

Plattsburgh gained substantial and unwanted publicity by failing its first attempt at being certified, when the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education rejected the college's bid in 2005.

It was just a year before that that Golden, fearing the worst for the college, found Hill, who had steered Keene State in New Hampshire through the rigorous accreditation process. Golden was no stranger to adversity, having been credited with keeping the Plattsburgh State ship afloat during and after the tumultuous presidency of Dr. Horace Judson in the 1990s.

The college changed accrediting organizations, signing on with the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.

Some veteran educators have told us that Plattsburgh's education program was far from where it should have been. Others have told us there was only some minor tweaking that had to be done, such as establishing effective evaluation procedures for graduates.

In any case, the process took five years and caused intense anxiety throughout the college and among many teachers already graduated and hired. What was to become of teaching professionals whose education was suddenly illuminated in such unflattering ways? Would their own certification be intact?

Hill rallied faculty and staff to redesign the program and address shortcomings perceived by NCATE and/or TEAC. He and Golden deserve the thanks, not only of all education students and all teachers and everyone involved in the program but of the entire college and the community. Plattsburgh State — and the City of Plattsburgh — would have suffered irreparable damage had the teacher-education program been disqualified.

The accreditation is good for five years, which seems very temporary, in comparison with the amount of stress and hard work devoted to achieving it.

The good news is that officials now know what is needed to retain the good standing of the program.

Hill has moved back into the classroom, which is what he'd intended to do upon his arrival at Plattsburgh five years ago. He'll accept a pay cut in order to return to what he loves doing — teaching students.

Future teacher-education students may never know how much they owe to Hill's expertise and determination. Those who are in the midst of learning to become teachers right now surely do. He has saved their education and ensured their careers.