BY KARISSA MILLER
Following a lengthy discussion on Monday night, the Iredell-Statesville Board of Education voted unanimously to delay a decision about whether to expand the International Baccalaureate (IB) program to Statesville High School.
The board asked school administrators to provide specific details, including a breakdown of the costs and the source of that funding, during the Committee of the Whole meeting in early January with the board likely to vote on the matter the following week at its regular meeting.
The IB expansion item was initially removed from the meeting agenda last Friday, but was added back to the agenda on Monday at the request of member Todd Carver.
“I have some opinions I’d like to be heard on since I won’t be at the January Committee of the Whole meeting,” Carver explained.
He told the board that he was initially against implementing the program at Statesville High. But he changed his stance after meeting with Principal Sheila Jenkins.
Carver explained that a significant number of students either have to drive to South Iredell High from the northern part of the county to continue the IB track after middle school or start another academic track. That could be remedied by expanding the program to Statesville High, he said.
The fact that previous I-SS boards have told parents that the IB program would be added at Statesville High was another reason he decided to support the proposal at this time.
Adding the IB program at Statesville High would give I-SS families another option to consider, but no students will be forced to enroll in the program, Carver said. He also pointed out that offering the IB program in the northern end of the county might bring some students back to the district who have left for charter schools.
Board members William Howell and Chuck Gallyon voiced their concerns about the proposal.
Howell asserted that the IB program would attract the high-achieving students to the school, which would help boost Statesville’s test scores. But he questioned whether it would help low-performing students.
Gallyon also explained that he’s not against the IB program, but that South Iredell High “recruits athletes because of the IB program.”
If an athlete enrolls in the IB program in order to play sports at South Iredell but then drops out of the IB program, he or she does not have to return to their home school.
Gallyon asked South Iredell Principal Tim Ivey to confirm that during the meeting. Ivey responded, “If a student finishes their MYP (Middle Years Programme) 10th-grade year, they have the option to stay at the school,” he said.
In an email to the board and in her comments Monday night, Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Melanie Taylor explained that IB is intended to be a very inclusive program that is designed to help all types of learners become great students.
The program provides ongoing training and support for teachers to ensure its sustainability.
About the IB expansion
While there is an expense to get started, Taylor said, the expense to sustain the program is not as challenging because it will be tied into the district’s partnership with IB.
“I think it also speaks to the desire parents have for their students to receive a high-quality, rigorous education for all students. By providing the full-continuum in both the northern and southern areas of our county, we would help address some of the equity in accessibility and eliminate some existing transportation costs,” Taylor told the board.
Funds to pay for the program will come from the Restart budget – which the district receives to provide additional resources for low-performing schools — and Title IV funds. The cost of adding an IB coordinator to the Statesville High staff is approximately $60,000, officials stated.
The district will provide more information regarding the total costs in January.
Board members also had questions about whether Statesville High could handle an influx of IB students and continue offering existing colleges and add a CTE program.
Superintendent Brady Johnson assured the board that because the IB program would be phased in, the school would not have a space problem for at least three or four years. South Iredell High is currently at capacity.
School board elects leadership for 2020
At the beginning of Monday’s meeting, I-SS board members re-elected Martin Page as chairman and Gallyon as vice chairman for the upcoming year.
Board member Samuel Kennington nominated Page as chairman. Page defeated Charles Kelly by a 4-3 vote with the support of Carver, Kennington and Gallyon – as well as his own vote.
Ken Poindexter then nominated Gallyon for vice chairman. Gallyon was unanimously elected.