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School district stays in IA for now



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January 19, 2011 - Oxford Community Schools students will continue sending students to the International Academy for now.

Due to ongoing conversations with board members after the OCS Board of Education meeting on Monday, Jan. 10, the district has decided to withdraw their withdrawal from the International Academy (IA), located at 1020 E. Square Lake Rd. in Bloomfield Hills, and send students there for one more year.

The decision was reached on Thursday, Jan. 13 after Superintendent Dr. William Skilling had individual conversations with each board member.

"Most of them felt strongly that we should continue for another year as a safeguard and not to potentially penalize this current group of students if we should not make our own IB authorization timelines," said James Schwarz, the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum.

According to their website, IA is a public, tuition free high school of choice for students of 20 Oakland County school districts collaborating in consortium with university and business partners.

It is an International Baccalaureate certified high school, offering an IB diploma to all of its students. It functions as the first IB diploma high school in North America.

Currently OCS has 14 students enrolled at IA. Next year OCS would send five current eighth grade students.

Board Trustee Mary Stein spoke in favor of keeping students at (IA) until the district was more certain about the timeline for Oxford's IB program.

"We have just started this (application) process, and I think 2012 would be the best (year), and that is if everything goes perfect; that doesn't always happen," she said at Monday's meeting.

She was concerned if Oxford started the Middle Year's Program in 2011, those incoming ninth graders would not be adequately prepared to deal with the personal project in 10th grade, which she compared to a capstone project at a major university.

"For me, the concern is really about timing because for an IB program to become a quality program upon authorization, it takes our teachers time and it takes our districts time to get in the groove and learn from others," she added. "We have a quality program here in IA, and I am wondering why we are doing this, where there is potential for jeopardizing if we don't just hold off for another year or two."

Board Treasurer Doug Myer agreed.

"My thought is to do a little more research on something like that. Let's say the bottom falls our and we say that IB is something that we are not going to do, you still have given the opportunity to a few children who want that as a potential," Myer said.

The district was leaning towards withdrawal from the IA, due to "fiscal responsibility of where do we prioritize our money in terms of building our own programs in Oxford," Schwarz said at Monday's meeting.

He concluded that monies Oxford sends to IA each year to cover the cost of a teacher and tuition for students would be able to cover the annual membership fees, IB training for 20 teachers and the cost for all IB resources and materials for Oxford.

"Quite frankly, we are able to impact a lot more children than what we can send to the IA," Schwarz explained. "All of our students have to opportunity to earn the same diploma as IA. They can earn it right here in Oxford and more of them than just five a year."

Oxford would save this year, based on the current number of children at IA, $98,798.

Although they were looking at withdrawing from the IA consortium, students who were currently enrolled at IA from Oxford would have been allowed to finish and graduate from IA.

"All we are doing at this point is stopping to send new students to the IA," Schwarz said.

Trustee Robert Martin said that even though Oxford and IA would have the same diploma, there are still things IA offers that Oxford can't.

"You are going to have people, parents and students in our district, who given the choice, will choose IA because of it's reputation, because of it's ranking, because of it's cultural diversity," he said.

Board President Colleen Schultz asked if the board could have more time to discuss on the matter.

"We as a board have to make a decision that is best for all the kids for the greater good, but maybe we are not quite ready to do that yet," she said. "I don't want to jeopardize kids if our program isn't ready...if we are not being realistic, I would like us to look at things and see when we are really ready."

Schwarz indicated that after this year, the board would "reevaluate the situation next year and see where we are relative to the timelines with IB and decide again to send the next group or hold back."

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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