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Online courses to get formal vote at next North Hills board meeting

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The North Hills School Board has taken a step toward bringing online International Baccalaureate, or IB, courses to the district's high school next year.

Though a participation agreement has not been formally approved yet, the IB courses are being added to school's program of studies.

At a meeting Feb. 6, the board unanimously voted to add the participation agreement to the agenda for the Feb. 20 meeting. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the large-group-instruction room at North Hills Middle School, 55 Rochester Road.

“Based on the lack of opposition from the board, we can assume it will be going forward,” district spokeswoman Amanda Hartle said.

The IB classes to be offered are rigorous two-year courses of study that integrate global perspectives and are provided through International Baccalaureate, a foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland.

North Hills Superintendent Patrick Mannarino has said college recruiters notice students with IB course experience and that offering the courses would be advantageous to North Hills students.

North Hills officials plan to adopt only courses, rather than an entire program, so enrolled students would not be qualified for an IB diploma.

The district would offer four classes — “Philosophy,” “Business Management,” “Information Technology in a Global Society” and “higher-level” mathematics, Assistant Superintendent Johannah Vanatta has said.

The district would be charged $1,300 per class per year for each student enrolled, she said. Parents of students who fail or withdraw from the courses would be expected to repay the district, she said.

Currently, 24 students would qualify for IB courses, and the cost to the district would $1,300 per class per year for each student enrolled. She said she did not expect costs to exceed $10,000 per year.

In other business:

• Peter Vancheri, an independent auditor from Hosack, Specht, Muetzel & Wood LLP, gave a report on his company's findings of North Hill's annual audit, which the state requires. Vancheri reported that there were no problems in the audit findings for the financial year that ended June 30, 2013.

• David Hall, the district's director of finance and operations, presented financial projections for the 2014-15 school year the public budget committee has been discussing.

Hall estimated the district will bring in $1.9 million more in revenue than in the current fiscal year without a property-tax increase, based on current projections for local tax revenue and state and federal funding.

• Vanatta proposed changes to the seventh-grade literacy-arts program to the board that she said would boost student achievement.

Eighty-three percent of seventh- and eighth-graders in the district consistently have tested at the “proficient” level for the past four years, but state authorities have begun focusing on improvement, which the district needs to show.

Vanatta proposed breaking seventh-grade reading classes into three tiers based on students' levels. The model is based on a national program — “Learning!” — which shows more annual improvement than the district's current program, Vanatta said.

“By making these tweaks in the program, I think we'll see measurable results,” she said.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or kshea@tribweb.com.

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