June 05, 2013 - School and government officials from Tlalnepantla, Mexico visited Oxford High School and Lakeville and Leonard elementary schools last week as apart of their sister school agreements with Oxford Community Schools.
Officials from Mexico, Oxford Community Schools, Oxford Village and Addison Township posed for a group photo. (click for larger version)
"We were pleased to be able to host them," said Superintendent Dr. Bill Skilling. "They were such great hosts (to) us and showed tremendous hospitality when we visited them in Tlalnepantla last October."
Their visit included a concert from both Lakeville and Leonard Elementary students called "Cantamos Americanos," a luncheon and tour of Oxford High School as well as tours of Lakeville and Leonard elementary schools, and meeting state, county and local government officials.
"I think it was a great trip for them to see our schools and how we do things up here. I think they left with a pretty good impression of our schools," said Lakeville Elementary Spanish Teacher Norma Parker "I love that the teachers were also able to come up with them as well as some members of the government because they're also supporting this idea and vision we have. That is very important for schools because the government is helping a lot."
Parker said students from Lakeville also picked out their favorite book, signed it and said why it was their favorite and sent the books to be delivered to the students in Tlalnepantla.
"Their students (from Tlalnepantla) sent letters and gifts for our first-grade students because they have been skyping back and forth a lot."
Leonard Principal Paul McDevitt said it was a "good opportunity to get to know and develop a relationship with a school in another country."
"Their environment and their culture and their school have a lot of similarities, but also vast differences from Oxford," explained McDevitt. "It's good for us to understand what their lives are like and for them to understand what our lives are like to help us moving forward with getting our parents and our students more involved with their parents and their students."
"Ultimately down the road we want to have this relationship be as powerful as we can, which may include, as the kids get older, exchanges with families and things like that," he continued. "None of that is in the works right now. We're still in the developmental stage, but you'd never send your kids somewhere you didn't know where they were going and know who they were going to be with and have a strong friendship and relationship with who's taking care of them."
McDevitt said they also showed the officials around the area
"They are in a very densely-populated area of Mexico and we are much more rural and spread out," he said. "Seeing houses that have acreage and driving dirt roads and things like that was a new experience for them – to see how our way of life is here compared to the traffic, the city and the type of housing they have."
Part of taking the area tour included a trip to the Echo Grove Salvation Army Camp in Addison Township.
"For some of them, it was the very first time they'd even seen a lake. They also got to go out on the lake and go for a pontoon boat ride," McDevitt said. "Something we take for granted as just something we grew up doing was their first experience."
Looking to the future, McDevitt said he sees real opportunity for sister school relationships between Oxford and Tlalnepantla.
"I just think down the road it's going to blossom into something really special that is going to be unique for students of Oxford," he said.
Skilling said Mexican officials want to form a sister school agreement between Oxford Schools and the city of Tlalnepantla, which would make them a sister school to all 205 schools in that city because currently Oxford is only a sister school with an elementary down there.
"In Mexico, sister school relationships have to be approved by the government. Everything has to go through the government, so it's very top dollar," he explained. "Whereas in the United States I make that call on behalf of the school system, any local superintendent can do that. We don't need the governor or state superintendent to sign off on it."
"So we're very excited about this new relationship and what this will mean for our students in the future because we're connecting now with elementary, middle school and high schools in Tlalnepantla," continued Skilling. "This will create more avenues by which we can have student exchanges, teacher exchanges and so forth."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.