High-achieving students and alumni are petitioning trustees to think twice about cancelling a popular enrichment program in the River East Transcona School Division.

For more than 40 years, Collège Miles Macdonell Collegiate has attracted pupils interested in pursuing both a local and International Baccalaureate diploma by the end of Grade 12.

“The IB program shaped not only me as a student, but how I approach the world and critically think about everything,” said Juscenta Haligowski, a member of Miles Mac’s Class of 2020. “It teaches you to take self-direction in your learning, while also leaning on your mentors (trained teachers).”

Three years after earning the division’s top prize — which is granted to a member of every graduating class who has both an exceptional academic record and dedication to volunteerism — Haligowski called the board’s decision to end IB “ridiculous and contradictory.”

Haligowski, now a university student, said many of the trustees who chose her to be the recipient of the 2020 gold medal are ignoring the value of the program that is responsible for her becoming a well-rounded student.

The IB program, originally designed to provide a uniform education to the children of diplomats and travelling business people, is known for its holistic approach to schooling and heavy coursework that prepares students for university.

The international organization charged member high schools a total of US$11,650 for registration in 2022-23. Every IB exam, each of which is mailed to and marked at a global hub, is an additional US$119.

Last month, RETSD announced it would phase out the special syllabus — which is only offered at a handful of high schools in Winnipeg — following “budget deliberations.” The division intends to expand its selection of advanced placement courses in lieu of IB ones, administrators said.

More than 500 people, including Haligowski, have signed an appeal to the board of trustees to find a way to continue offering what they say is an irreplaceable program.

“Our school division has a responsibility to prioritize the education and growth of all of our students, including those who are dedicated to academic pursuits and ambitious in that endeavour,” Rob Harder told trustees during a presentation on the subject Tuesday.

Dozens of supporters, including retired IB teachers and alumni who took enriched courses at Miles Mac, packed into the boardroom on Roch Street in solidarity with his request to pause and conduct an in-depth review of the program.

Harder spoke at-length about recent research out of the University of Toronto and University of British Columbia that found IB graduates generally attain higher grade point averages than their peers, graduate in a timelier manner, and have lower drop-out rates.

The father of four called on board members to look into local student outcomes, investigate expenses related to the program at-large, and consider ways to foot program bills, including charging enrolment or exam fees.

“All of the evidence points toward a vibrant and growing program with higher engagement than ever,” he said, noting there are 36 IB diploma candidates in 2023, accounting for about 13 per cent of Miles Mac’s next graduating class — a sizable increase compared to figures from the 1990s when he took enriched courses at the school.

All of Harder’s children have either been involved in the IB program or had planned to do so; one of his teenagers is taking preparatory classes for it.

Should the division axe the program, Grade 9 and 10 students who were working towards an IB diploma will have to switch into the standard English or French immersion stream. Either way, Grade 11 students will be allowed to complete their second and final year of IB.

Board chairwoman Colleen Carswell did not respond to an interview request Wednesday.

Superintendent Sandra Herbst — who indicated Carswell was in negotiations meetings all day — said trustees will share a written decision with delegates “in a timely fashion.”

“The opportunity for the board to hear directly from community members and receive information is important to the democratic process,” Herbst said in a statement. “Deliberations occur after presentations are made.”

By Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 04, 2023 at 21:59

This item reprinted with permission from   Free Press   Winnipeg, Manitoba
Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated

Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated