The Path to CAPRA Accreditation

January 20, 2022, Department, by Brian Foley

02 22 We Are PR The Path to CAPRA Accreditation 410

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Milwaukee Recreation becomes nation’s first school district-run agency to receive CAPRA accreditation

Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Recreation’s affiliation with a public school district allows for a unique agency framework within the world of parks and recreation. As a department of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), our agency uses school facilities to serve the entire community.

Chapter 509 of the Wisconsin Laws of 1911 gave public school systems in the state the ability to organize and conduct recreation programs for both children and adults in their community. The law recognized that recreation is an educational process and that both recreation and education are strong forces in total human development and the formation of a city’s culture. 

Our access to 146 school facilities allows us to direct resources into programming rather than toward brick-and-mortar infrastructure, thereby providing our community with the best possible value in recreation programming. In addition to the use of school facilities, we also program and maintain 52 outdoor recreation playfields throughout the city of Milwaukee.

The process for the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) involves a formal application, self-assessments, a site visit by a team of trained individuals (independent of Milwaukee Recreation) that results in a written report, and a hearing with the commission to grant accreditation. Making a commitment to the CAPRA challenge should not be done lightly, as it requires the full dedication of your entire department. However, recognizing the process would provide Milwaukee Recreation with the opportunity to measure our operations against the industry standard made the decision to pursue CAPRA an obvious one.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this year’s visitations were held virtually. After a highly-scrutinized review of Milwaukee Recreation’s operations and programming, CAPRA accreditation was granted, as the department demonstrated compliance with all 154 recognized standards.

Preparing for the final CAPRA submission was a multi-year process led by a core team of 10 individuals. Additionally, two department staff members became CAPRA volunteers and participated in several agency visits, which proved extremely useful as we moved through the process. Finally, using PowerDMS software to organize our evidence was invaluable.

After compiling and submitting the required evidence and completing the review process, Milwaukee Recreation became the first school district-run agency, and only the third agency in the state of Wisconsin, to earn accreditation through CAPRA. Several local media organizations have covered the news with stories and sit-down interviews.

“We are extremely honored to receive this prestigious accreditation,” says Lynn Greb, senior director of Milwaukee Recreation. “Our entire team remained committed to this effort from the beginning and has worked extremely hard to gather data, provide information and implement new strategies that ultimately allowed us to meet all the CAPRA standards necessary for accreditation. Thank you to the CAPRA commission and NRPA for this recognition, to our community for its continued support, and to our incredible staff that helped to make this accreditation possible.”

The pursuit of accreditation provided an opportunity for self-reflection that will guide our operations and services into the future. Work already has begun to prepare for the reaccreditation process in five years and while the commitment is never-ending, it is highly worthwhile.

Brian Foley is Supervisor of Marketing for Milwaukee Recreation.