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School district votes to withdraw from International Academy



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December 21, 2011 - With Oxford High School getting closer and closer to International Baccalaureate authorization, the Board of Education unanimously voted during their meeting on Monday, Dec. 12 to gradually withdraw their students from the International Academy (IA), located in Bloomfield Hills.

According to Tim Loock, the assistant superintendent of business and operations for OCS, the move will save the district approximately $35,355 during the 2012-13 school year.

Overall, the district is expected to save approximately $113,216 once Oxford's current 16 students graduate.

Dr. James Schwarz, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, noted current Oxford students attending IA will be given the option to continue on and graduate from IA.

"We are not going to pull those students back," Schwarz said. "Next year we won't be sending any new freshmen, but those that are sophomores, juniors and seniors currently there will be allowed to continue until the last class finishes."

OCS has been a member of IA since the school first opened its doors in 1996, and has occupied 20 slots for students.

The district's plan to implement the IB Diploma Program at Oxford High School in 2012 and the monies saved were the main reasons for the district's withdrawal from the IA.

"The board ultimately had the decision whether or not they wanted to keep currently the $113,216 that we spend on sending these 16 students to the IA, if they want that money to stay in the district," Schwarz said.

"Do you want to justify spending for this experience for a number of students or have those monies begin to trickle back to the district and potentially benefit a larger group of students for the same outcome," he added.

OCS pays tuition when sending students to the IA. Loock said the tuition was "pegged to the foundation allowance to each of the school districts."

Loock said students attending IA are counted in the student enrollment numbers, so the district gets the foundation grant money from the state for them.

"But then we turn around and ship the entire amount, minus 20 bucks, to the IA for tuition for those students," Loock explained.

"For us, it doesn't make sense to be shipping foundation monies to the International Academy for students to attend there, when we offer the same outcome here," Schwarz said.

"I know with the IB World Diploma, that has enabled many of our students to get into prestigious colleges, Ivy League colleges, along the way," Schwarz added. "We are hopefully bringing that outcome to Oxford (and) that benefit will be afforded to many more students than we could possibly send to the IA."

Schwarz also noted transportation issues for students and the district not being able to get back the foundation grant money were also reasons for withdrawing from the IA.

The district's tuition money also helps pay for a half-time counselor at the IA's Troy campus.

Loock said the counselor, which is on Oxford's payroll, makes approximately $38,532 per year.

"Once we no longer send students there, the likely thing is that individual would be transferred to another school district, or she may move on to another school district all-together."

During the Board of Education meeting, trustee Robert Martin spoke in favor of the decision, even though he admitted the district "will never be able to mirror" the environment of IA.

"Having seen what our district has done, what the administration has done, what the school administrators have done and what the teachers have done to prepare Oxford Community Schools for the IB, I have to support withdrawing from the IA, as much as I hate saying it, because they now have a similar opportunity here," he said.

"Since we are giving it to them, I would love for them to take it here and be a part of the numbers we need for the program to start," he added.

Schwarz agreed the IA experience was a valuable experience for students they sent there.

"We can't mimic that experience because they have a totally different ethnic population that creates a whole different culture that we here cannot mimic," Schwarz explained. "We can mimic in terms of course work and the outcome, that being the IB World Diploma, but in terms of the experience, because of the cultural nature of that school and the makeup of the student body, we can't just mimic that."

According to Schwarz, the amount of money saved by not sending students to the IA would help cover the cost of the annual membership fees for the IB schools, along with any additional training for new teachers or teachers transferring positions within the district.

The annual IB school membership fees is $10,200 for the Diploma Programme, $8,550 for the Middle Years Programme and $7,450 per Primary Years Programme school.

The good report following the high school's authorization visit on November 14 and 15 played a factor in the boards decision as well.

"The visit seemingly went very well...from the exit presentation they made after they left the second day, they really gave us no indication of there being concerns or anything that would hold up the process," Schwarz said. "From where we stand, we look like we are good to go full steam ahead."

Schwarz noted it would take between two and five months before the district received any official feedback.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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