Janesville school exchange program could add Argentina, Thailand, Spain
JANESVILLE People have been talking about the Janesville School District’s “China program.” They should change that to “world program.”
Superintendent Karen Schulte is looking at a plan to combine and expand a number of programs into one Janesville International Education Program.
Schulte and her chief information officer, Robert Smiley, are scheduled to discuss the idea with the school board when it meets Tuesday.
Schulte told The Gazette on Friday that she envisions an umbrella program that includes current student and/or teacher exchanges with Argentina, Thailand and Spain.
Schulte’s hope is to deepen and expand ties with those countries, as well as the newly developed ties with schools and universities in China.
The first venture for the China program involves two Chinese teachers who will arrive Feb. 22 and who will be working at four elementary schools: Harrison, Roosevelt, Madison and Kennedy.
The international program will involve a number of countries.
“We’re starting with China because the door was open through the award we received for having an exemplary (Chinese language) program,” Schulte said.
The 2011 award from the Asia Society included a promise to match Janesville with a partner school in China. Schulte and Smiley returned last month from China with agreements with a primary school and two universities.
Eventually, Schulte wants to host tuition-paying foreign students, and not just from China.
The tuition would boost district finances and enrollment, a goal the school board had set for Schulte. But there’s an academic reason for the international outreach, too.
Schulte hopes the visitors from around the globe will boost the “global competencies” of Janesville students, giving them the perspectives and knowledge needed to work in a globally connected world.
“I want every student to be touched by this,” Schulte said.
Global competencies are important because the world is becoming more interconnected with communications and trade with people half a world away becoming commonplace.
For example, Schulte said she spoke with a school principal in China on Thursday night on a connection that was as clear as if she were talking to her mother.
Another example: Janesville’s successful Prent Corp. has a plant in Shanghai, Schulte noted.
“I think that’s going to be bigger, not smaller, and we know that kids need to have a certain skill set to be comfortable in different settings,” Schulte said.
“We’re trying to prepare kids for a world we can’t quite see yet. We believe this is coming,” she added.
Schulte said district committees are working on various aspects of the international program, and at some point, the program may require someone to oversee it.
If you go
The Janesville School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St.
Some members of the board will hold an informal listening/discussing session before the meeting at 5:30 p.m.
Members of the public can make formal comments to the board during the regular meeting. Formal comments are limited to three minutes, and board members generally do not respond at that time.