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Contracts approved for International Residency

June 16, 2010 - The Oxford International Residence Academy (OIRA) has cleared another hurdle as the Oxford Community Schools Board of Education approved the contracts with Beijing Consulting Company (BCC) and Crossroads for Youth.

The board voted to approve with contracts 6-1 on Monday, May 28.

Trustee Mary Stein cast the lone objection because she felt that the overall program should provide more direct benefits to Oxford students. "I voted no because I think that additional monies for scholarships should have been under control of Oxford schools rather than within the BCC contract and clearly benefit our students," she said in response to an e-mail from this reporter.

She noted that following the meeting, the BCC contract was being revised to include scholarships for Oxford students.

According to Superintendent Dr. William Skilling, those scholarships for Oxford students within the BCC contract provide the opportunities to either be an exchange student at a residential school in China or with a host family, or go on a cultural tour of China for a couple of weeks.

The board's decision to approve the contacts was the second approval for OIRA. An unanimous decision was reached at a special Board of Education meeting on Sunday, May 16 to go forward with the residency subject to contract approval.

The decision was reached so Chinese students looking to attend the residence academy could begin the VISA application process. "I think that it is going to be a good opportunity for our students as well as the students coming here," Skilling said.

On Monday June 14, the final piece of the contract puzzle was completed as the Crossroads Board of Directors unanimously voted to go ahead with the program.

According President of Crossroads for Youth Dr. Janet McPeek, before the contract would be signed, the board wanted some clarification on the number of students that would be attending the program.

"There were no questions about the concept of the academy, not any of the planning or anything else, it is just a question about a mutual agreement on the number of students that would be required to run the program," she explained.

The district will be charging $11,500 in tuition per student, not including the cost of room and board, which will be handled by the staff at Crossroads for Youth. Over $230,000 will be generated for the district from the 20 students' first year of tuition, with the anticipated costs being close to $180,000.

Skilling added that the district would also receive foundation grant money from the Michigan Education Department because the students are considered foreign exchange.

"So that brings in another $146,000 plus, so our net gain is close to $200,000 for 20 students," Skilling said. He indicated that the board of education was going to discuss what to do with the extra money at future meetings.

To account for the extra 20 Chinese students that will be coming to the high school, Skilling noted that they built into the cost of tuition the amount that would be needed to hire either extra staff or pay current employees to do additional services.

"These students will be applying to American colleges and universities when they graduate. So from our tuition we are going to be hiring a part-time counselor or have an existing counselor that would be willing to take on the extra work because we want the counselor to be able to work with the students after school instead of during school," Skilling said.

He added that the reason for having the students work after school is that he does not want to add any workload to the counselors during the day. "That is why we are going to pay extra to do it after hours because they (Chinese students) are going to need more attention," he said.

A part-time English Second Language teacher would also be hired from the tuition money the district receives.

According to Skilling, built into the cost of tuition are textbooks and supplies, activity fees, an academy administer who will serve as the Chinese student's legal guardian, transportation to and from school and breakfast and lunch at the school.

The Chinese students would also be charged $14,500 for room and board, which would be located on the campus of Crossroads for Youth. "We pretty well know the expenses based on the students we regularly serve," McPeek said.

In addition to room and board, Crossroads would also be responsible for transportation other than to and from school, medical, dental and vision coverage and supervision of the students during non-school hours.

McPeek noted that they "sat down with the folks from Crossroads and representatives from the school district and tried to think through everything involved from the time the students would arrive to the time the students would finish the year."

"Their side is educating the students, while our side was really thinking through every minute of what happens after school to the next morning when they return and what happens on the weekends and making sure that we're incorporating everything that we need to on our side," McPeek added.

McPeek said that she was surprised to learn from state licensing is that since OIRA is a different type of program than what Crossroads usually runs, they did not need any approval from the state licensing and that it went through the state department of education.

"As far as it looks right now, everything that we needed from them (Oxford Community Schools) for approval has either been taken care of or is well into the process."

She noted that a lot of what they do will remain consistent, regardless of who is licensing them because as an accredited organization, they have to have certain things in place "regardless of whether it is one of our traditional programs or anything else that they offer."

As for the future of the program, Skilling is looking to add 20 students from other countries. He added that he was meeting with a consultant from Mexico to talk about the possibilities of establishing and building relationships in Mexico to support the schools Spanish language program.

"We would also like to create the same opportunities to do the same thing we are going to do with China, cultural tours, foreign exchange programs and things like that," he said.

McPeek said that Crossroads and OCS will begin planning the students orientation week starting in July. She added that the orientation week was not only going to help the students directly interacting with the kids, the Crossroads staff and the community at large with "what it means to have 20 students from China living here and going to school for a year."

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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