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Posted: 02/05/14

RCS in talks with
two Chinese programs

Observer Staff Writer
      Romeo Community Schools is saying ni hao ("hello") to Chinese exchange programs.
       Superintendent Nancy Campbell presented two Chinese exchange programs to the Board of Education on Jan. 13, both of which could bring culture, language and even revenue to the district as early as this fall.
       In the past year-and-a-half, around 60 teachers from Guiyang No. 1 High School in the Guizhou province visited Romeo schools. They spent six weeks as guest teachers while living with local host families.
       "We learned a lot about Chinese way of life, social, government, history," Campbell said.
       The principal of these teachers, along with seven other delegates, will visit Feb. 13 and speak with Romeo administrators about an agreement to become sister schools and expand the exchange program.
       "He (the principal) really, really would like Romeo High School's teachers to come over and do what we did, come over for six weeks," she said.
       The teachers from China were English instructors that wanted to enhance their language, so Romeo teachers would instead have a cultural exchange when visiting the school.
       The second part of the program would be for Romeo to accept juniors or seniors from the Chinese school. To do so, Campbell said the district needs Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) certification, which is provided by the Department of Homeland Security. The district is awaiting word on the approval, which could take up to four months.
       "We do hope that we will have Chinese exchange students here in the fall, but we can't move forward until we get this approval," she said.
       Campbell said if a Chinese teacher came to Romeo it could open opportunities for a Mandarin language course. She said families that host could receive $100 a week for their efforts.
       She said funding these endeavors could come from the foundation allowance enrolled Chinese students would bring in, which is $7,500 per junior and $10,000 per senior.
       A second exchange program the district is considering is from Beijing Consultants that would be for teachers and students from all grade levels.
       "There could be middle school students who could want to have a middle school experience in China, or conversely Chinese elementary or middle school students who would like to come over here for like a summer visit," she said.
       The program could include Mandarin at the secondary level and an immersion program for the elementary level, where half of the day a student is taught in Chinese and the other half in English.
       A flat fee of $45,000 would be charged for a teacher from China to implement the language program. Campbell said foundation allowance from any exchange students could cover the cost.
       "We'd have to have enough students come over, we'd have to find places for them to live, and that would pay for the Chinese teacher," she said.
       She said the program could grow as more students come in, possibly turning into a revenue stream. Campbell said preliminary talks with the district's union leaders have been positive, but they stressed that teachers shouldn't be laid off to bring in the programs.
       Campbell said the district could participate in both programs if it desired. If SEVIS certification is approved the exchange could begin this fall, but the Chinese teachers would take longer to phase in.
       "Most of us won't get to China in our lifetimes," she said. "This is a chance to bring China here."
       Board members expressed support for the programs, and asked that Campbell keep them updated on any progress.
       "The potential for revenue generating, expanding the cultural exposure, I think, is awesome," said Secretary Joe Fortuna. "It's very visionary."

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