Janesville schools go international
JANESVILLE Superintendent Karen Schulte might be headed back to China next month to arrange student and teacher exchanges with Chinese schools.
The result could be dozens of Chinese students studying and paying tuition at Janesville high schools and Chinese teachers visiting here to learn from and teach local educators.
Local teachers and students could travel to study in China, as well.
Schulte cautioned that nothing can happen until agreements are signed with Chinese school leaders, but she is enthusiastically embracing the possibilities.
As reported earlier, the first exchange could start in February, when student teachers from China could visit local schools. Chinese elementary school students could arrive in June for a summer-school program in which they would interact with local students.
As part of the planning, Schulte, school board members Bill Sodemann and Scott Feldt and other school officials visited Oxford, Mich., on Friday.
Oxford last year began welcoming Chinese students into its high school as a way of bolstering its Mandarin Chinese language program and boosting revenues in a time when state aids have been cut, Schulte said.
Schulte said Janesville receives about $9,000 per student with state aid and local property taxes combined, so that figure would be the starting point for discussing tuition that Chinese students would pay.
Schulte noted that the school board has asked her to bolster enrollment, so adding the tuition-paying Chinese students would be one way to do that.
Oxford has student and teacher exchanges with a school in China and offers Oxford students the opportunity to study in China for up to three years. Internet-based virtual school also is part of the deal.
“They’re doing a lot of different things there, and I need to find out what this is all about,” Schulte said before Friday’s trip.
A local donor who wishes to remain anonymous paid for the one-day trip to Michigan, Schulte said.
Schulte and school board member Kristin Hesselbacher visited China for a week earlier this month with several hundred other U.S. school leaders interested in creating or expanding ties with that country’s schools.
“Every school we visited, they were just very open to working with schools in the United States,” Hesselbacher said.
Schulte said she or some other Janesville school official needs to return to China soon to sign memos of understanding with schools in Beijing and Shanghai. Because of the way Chinese school leaders do business, face-to-face talks are essential for reaching agreements, Schulte said.
The trip would probably occur during winter break so she would not be absent for any more time when school is in session here, Schulte said.
Schulte also is seeking donations from local business and community leaders for costs associated with setting up the China exchange project. She doesn’t want to use tax dollars, “at least not at the onset,” she said.
Janesville offers award-winning Chinese language instruction in a handful of schools in grades 3-8, soon to expand to ninth grade. Schulte said visiting Chinese teachers could enhance that program.
Schulte also is interested in having local teachers learn from Chinese math teachers, who are said to be the best in the world in that subject.
The Chinese also could benefit.
“They see us as very innovative, creative, entrepreneurial, so they want know how you instill that in students,” Schulte said.
Schulte said the effort is not just about China. It’s aimed at giving students the educational and ethical foundations to compete in a world where understanding of diverse cultures is becoming more and more important.
Schulte said the Janesville Academy for International Studies, the district’s charter school where small numbers of Craig and Parker high school students spend parts of their days, could be a key part of that effort.
Chinese students would study at Craig and Parker as well as at the academy, Schulte said, adding she is looking to expand local programs, not build any new schools. The academy is now housed at UW-Rock County.
“I really would like to see if (the academy) could grow more because I think they are doing outstanding work. In many ways, it’s our best-kept secret in Janesville,” Schulte said.
Schulte noted that Gov. Scott Walker has reached out to Chinese investors, just one more signal of China’s global importance.
“The more we can understand these people that are becoming partners with us in a lot of different ways, I think, the better for all us,” she said.
To learn more
Janesville School District Superintendent Karen Schulte regularly blogs about planning for a Janesville-China education exchange and other school district matters at sdjsuper.blogspot.com.