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Sioux City Schools may limit international baccalaureate program to 3 elementary schools
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Sioux City Schools may limit international baccalaureate program to 3 elementary schools

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SIOUX CITY -- The Sioux City School Board pulled the plug on the possibility of the international baccalaureate program going into six district schools. For now, the plan is to pursue IB for three elementary schools.

Dan Greenwell, who spoke against adding international baccalaureate when he was a community member before joining the board in 2019, said he was pleased the move will effectively put a stop to it at the three middle schools.

"It is just not for Sioux City, Iowa," Greenwell said in the Monday board meeting, saying the district should focus on educational core subjects, instead of adding a program that in some ways replicates talented and gifted initiatives.

"I would rather hire more reading teachers. I would rather hire more teachers for kids who are in trouble," he added.

After 65 minutes of discussion, the board voted 4-3 to pay a fee of $28,500 to continue research for the district to be accepted as a candidate into IB for only three schools. That will be continued at Nodland, Sunnyside and Perry Creek elementary schools, but not East, West and North middle schools.

Back in spring 2018, Superintendent Paul Gausman proposed adding an IB program. Over many subsequent meetings, Assistant Superintendent Kim Buryanek has said IB would include challenging curriculum pieces across all subject areas, such as English, foreign language, math, science, social studies, the arts and physical education. 

Kim Buryanek

Buryanek

Buryanek said IB pieces are known for academic rigor, focus on global understanding and emphasis on student personal development. She said students who come through IB programs have an improved chance to be offered additional scholarships and be accepted at elite colleges.

Board members Perla Alarcon Flory and Jeremy Saint spoke in defense of international baccalaureate, saying it was an important addition to help learning for a segment of students.

Saint said IB will be worthwhile for "the cross-curricular focus," and he also wants the ability for district students to take a second foreign language beyond Spanish.

Board member Taylor Goodvin, who voted to only approve the fee for three schools, said he was offended that two school building principals sought teachers to contact school board members and speak in support of IB. He said those came via the district email system, and "one of the principals put it on Facebook, his personal Facebook."

Bob Michaelson, who recently retired from a 30-year career as a Sioux City district teacher and coach, told board members international baccalaureate has some merits, but he contended many of its elements are already taught in civics and government classes. He criticized the quest by administrators to pursue a "shiny new object."

"I am really, really concerned about what seems to be an onslaught of directives and initiatives that have adversely impacted our kids' achievements," Michaelson said.

Board member Monique Scarlett said she heard from many elementary teachers who support IB, while other instructors at other levels oppose it. Scarlett said she did not like how IB was going to be implemented in city schools where more affluent families send students, adding it would not do a lot for district pupils whose families are not affluent.

International baccalaureate, administered by a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., has been implemented in more than 2,200 U.S. school districts, including some large metro districts like Chicago and Atlanta.

On Monday, Buryanek said the Sioux City School District could get authorization to enter the full IB program by 2021.

Greenwell said so far the district has only gotten statistical details on the candidacy fee costs, not the full expenses of implementation, which he contended will be "millions" of dollars.

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