Our First Applicant!

Here I am almost a year after my previous post with news that yesterday we received our first F-1 applicant! Woohoo! Now my head is buzzing with next steps. Of course I want this to work out, but we’ll still have to vet his application and make sure he’s a good fit. We’ll need to interview him, but still, this is progress and very exciting!

I’ll need to pull together a couple of people who may want to sit in on the interview with me. He’s indicated that he wants to get a diploma from us, so we’ll have to take a look at his transcript and make sure that all checks out.

Oh gosh, there’s so much to do!

Deadline

So today was the deadline for student applicants coming through the four recruiting agencies we agreed to work with. Unfortunately, I have no emails in my inbox alerting me to any new applications for the 2016-2017 school year.

Huh.

I’ll probably get in touch with them to say that we’ll be “extending the deadline”, but I don’t know if that will make much of a difference. I did hear from Educatius that they want to feature our school in next year’s publication, but we were a little late to the game for this year’s. Ok, fair enough.

I’m hanging on to the advice I heard while in Europe that these programs take 12-18 months to get rolling and that I shouldn’t feel bad if I don’t get anyone at first. That seems to be the case. So I’m just going to take the long view.

Of course it’s hard though. I’m disappointed. I’m unsure of what else or what more I could have done. I do feel like getting tuition-paying students is somehow inevitable. The structure of the program we have developed has good bones. It’s just a matter of time. So I’m taking a deep breath and digging a little deeper to find the patience needed for this moment. It’s ok that it hasn’t worked out yet, because the future is a big place.

Back in the States

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My booth in Norway

What a fascinating trip to Europe! I had a handful of conversations with kids and parents, and many conversations with European recruiters. I wish I could come back saying, “We have 5 kids signed up!” But I don’t of course. The other school reps advised me that it often takes 12-18 months to really get into this market and that I shouldn’t worry if I don’t get anyone at first. I’m still hopeful, but it’s tough to say what will happen by the end of May (which is our student deadline).

For many of the school reps there, this kind of trip is their bread and butter. They spend 3-6 months a year on the road talking about their school. Fascinating. There were lots of Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders (they called themselves Kiwis). There were a handful of other Americans on this trip, and I was certainly the only American Public School.

Curiously enough, most of the other Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand schools represented there were public. In Australia they were called “Government Schools”, but it’s the same idea.

The last night I was there, at the last agency-sponsored dinner, I sat next to a guy from Queensland, Australia and across from the Sales and Marketing head for this agency. FYI, Queensland is a state of Australia. It was a magical dinner, mostly because my head exploded with an idea. The guy from Queensland, Australia represented ALL of the public or government schools in Queensland, and it occurred to me. Why wasn’t I there representing ALL of the public schools from Vermont? We’re all on the same team. I love Vermont on the whole quite dearly. We could do this. It was great to hear from this guy how his system worked, and likewise, it would good to hear from the head of sales why that might be an advantageous system from a marketing perspective.

There are some key differences regarding why it works as it does for Queensland. For example, this guy’s department oversees quality of government schools. It’s as if NEASC were housed with the Agency of Education. They also oversee all of the recruitment for each school. Any international student intending on attending a Queensland school must go through his department anyway. So it’s pretty natural that he would be there for recruiting, as they’d all funnel through him anyway.

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Presenting in Spain

This lady from Sales and Marketing suggested that I look at the model set up by Nova Scotia. Apparently every Canadian public school recruits, and Nova Scotia has it pretty dialed in. They have a good reputation educationally, and they have made a conscious effort to keep international tuition rates to below $20,000 specifically in order to keep their schools attractive and affordable for the “middle class of the world”, so they’re not just getting kids of the super rich.

Upon my return to the US (like the very next day), I went to a discussion about the possibility of a consortium of schools working with this one particular agency regarding a dual diploma program. It was difficult to tell how interested the participating schools were in pursuing this specific option, but it does seem like Vermont is ripe for some kind  of consortium.

After checking in with Jeff Francis (so grateful), it seemed like the best course of action was still to wait a bit. We need to have some success with our program here at Montpelier before I go peddling a consortium.

But please believe that when it happens, it will be independent of any specific corporate obligations. We would issue an RFP. We would have options. We would likely go with CSIET certified agencies.

Overall, I had a great experience in four different European countries: Norway, Germany, Spain, and Iceland.

 

 

 

Europe on Wednesday!

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Perhaps by the time I get back Spring will have settled in!

A few weeks ago I signed up to go to Europe with Educatius. I’ll be setting up a table at a school fair and hopefully talking with students and parents about Montpelier High School as they mill around checking out schools. In addition I’ll be giving a 10 minute pitch of Montpelier High School to a couple of groups of recruiting agents from around Europe.

This trip will take me to Norway, Germany, and Spain. I’ll also be spending a couple of extra days in Iceland as an extended layover. And I leave this Wednesday!

I’m starting to get nervous.

I finished my google slides presentation today for the recruiting agents. And I practiced my pitch on my parents. I’m borrowing my sister’s luggage because it’s much larger than anything I own. Hopefully the banner for the table arrives before I have to leave on Wednesday! It’s time to start making a list of all the things that must be done before I can leave.

Mail my taxes. Write lesson plans. Find coaching subs. Pack! Pack! Pack!

I’m so grateful. What an adventure!

It’s funny, I really love Vermont a lot. At one point I thought I would never leave Vermont again, but instead I’m leaving Vermont just to go to another continent to talk about how awesome Vermont is! Ha!

This trip will be very different than the trip to Thailand for lots of reasons, but one of them being that I’m not in charge of the trip exactly. I mean, I have to get myself places, but then hopefully someone else will run the show!

 

 

Three New Resources

I’m out in Schenectady, NY this weekend with the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation putting together a new branch of the organization that plans to offer professional development experiences for teachers. This PD will help science and math teachers incorporate engineering design into their existing curricula. Awesome.

As usual, hanging out with Knowles Fellows is refreshing and inspiring. There are these tangential things that you learn, which are super valuable. Here are three of them.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 10.23.33 PM1.  Canva. Our group was like “we need a flier!” and then one of our members made the coolest looking flier in a pretty short amount of time. And she used Canva to do it!

2. Phet. I’ve known about this physics-teaching tool for a long time, but I kept forgetting the site. The reason I kept forgetting what they were called is because I got it in my head that they were called physlets (physics-related java applets). And that’s a thing, but honestly, they’re not as cool as Phets. I’m going to need to remember that link by the time I’m back to teaching physics. In fact, maybe I can use one to teach the Carnot Cycle to my engineering students!

3. Ok, this isn’t an app, and again I think I knew about this before, but we watched this TED talk on the Golden Circle as a group, just to help us think through the language around our mission statement and vision statement.

So this post has been a little bit of an aside from my usual postings, but it was a good weekend with good friends!

 

The Woes of Being an Overachiever

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It just so happens that my post-conference bed and breakfast is minutes away from Harvard Yard. This was on my walk to dinner.

Today was one of those days where everything changes. My perspective has shifted since yesterday, and I think that’s a good thing.

Today was the Educatius Public F-1 School Summit. Ok, I just made up that name, but that’s basically who was there: all public schools with international F-1 programs, all in the same room talking about our challenges and successes in dealing with international students. Oh my gosh, in some small way it was like finding my people. So far, I have found painfully few public schools running F-1 programs. I mean, it’s basically been Newcomb in NY and Stearns in Maine. That’s it. Then here was a whole roomful of principals, vice principals, guidance counselors, and international coordinators from schools all over New England who are involved in the very same work I am doing! Ok, mainly they were from Massachusetts, but still, how delightful. I now have a new handful of places I could go visit or at least communicate with about what’s working.

Afterward, I had a very frank conversation with Steve from Educatius during which my paradigm shifted.

I learned that Montpelier is priced such that it’s in the “select” group, which means it’s expensive, and it’s a roll of the dice as to how many students will want to go there. In Educatius’ “basic” program students don’t get a choice, they just get placed at a school. Some schools look more appealing than others in the “select” group. But no guarantees.

I also found out that by directly recruiting, and posting that package cost on the website, we have basically told our recruiting agencies that we are undercutting them. I knew this (sort of) from a conversation with a different recruiting agency, but no one else asked about direct recruiting, so I just assumed that it didn’t matter to them. Turns out it does matter. You know, between the difficulty with direct background checks for host families and now this, I am really just inclined to not directly recruit at all.

In fact, the phrase that’s settling in for me is that at Montpelier High School education is our business, not prepping and supporting host families. Perhaps in my eagerness to do a thorough and complete job I have overestimated the amount of work I need to do. Perhaps I really just need to hire this part out and then not worry about it. That is where the shift is occurring: that I can let go of all the work that would come from directly recruiting. Now if a student from Thailand does want to come to Montpelier, I can direct them to this agency. Easy. Of course I’ll be involved with finding host families and supporting these students, and probably coming up with a Montpelier-specific orientation, but I probably don’t need to do the host family prep. And that’s probably good, because I am SO not qualified to do that. I have no idea as to what would need to be included.

Meanwhile Educatius has a European tour in April. I think I should go.

 

Introducing Volatility (Or Stability) into the System

So it’s late, but I’m feeling the need to capture this idea because I think it’s important, but it would be easy to overlook at this stage.

I had an interesting conversation today with the local coordinator for CIEE, which runs a J-1 visa program and often sends students to Montpelier HS. I was telling her about the F-1 policy that I’m drafting presently, based on Newcomb’s F-1 Policy. Their policy requires a ratio of students from Asia, Europe, and South America. It also sets a limit of four students who speak the same first language.

My steering committee decided that was too narrow or limiting and we just said that diversity of nationalities and languages would be considered in the selection process.

But this lady reminded me of something I haven’t thought about in a long time. Perhaps we want a statement like, “No more than 10% of our student body will be F-1 visa students.” Or maybe it should be something like, “The number of F-1 seats available will be the difference between 100 students and the number of residents students.” Thus basically maintaining the size of each class.

This is a way to achieve population stability. (Of course, assuming that we can fill these seats, and that that number doesn’t exceed, say 10% of our total population.)

The other thing is that, if we aren’t careful, we could end up introducing a noticeable amount of volatility in the school budget tax rate. That money either goes towards reducing homeowners’ tax rate or it goes into the general fund. If we have an unmet reserve fund policy, then perhaps this will help us catch up on that, but I think we need to be intentional about what we’re going to do with that money.

For that purpose I actually really like the idea of setting the class size. We could set it such that there were enough students so that no one had to be part time! Wouldn’t that be great! I might need to crunch some numbers to see roughly how many students it would take for the whole faculty to be full time. What’s that threshold? Interesting stuff.