Norwin cuts ties with Chinese student exchange program | TribLIVE.com
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Joe Napsha

Norwin has cut ties to an educational firm that brought Chinese students and educators to one of its schools last year.

The Norwin School District will terminate its August 2018 agreement with the International Foundation Alliance-EDU Chinese Youth Ambassador Program, which was to send a group of Chinese students to Westmoreland County next month. The school board voted unanimously last week.

The agreement, which was to expire in June 2023, linked Norwin to two private Chinese schools — Peking University New Century School and Wenzhou Dalton Elementary School.

Natalie McCracken, assistant superintendent, told the school board last week she has not received information from IFA-EDU during the summer about its plans to have Chinese students attend a Norwin school this school year.

Dai Dong of Beijing, identified as a coordinator of the IFA-EDU program, will be notified of the district’s action in a letter.

When former superintendent William Kerr retired in June, that left a void in the communication with the IFA-EDU, McCracken said. Kerr was a big supporter of the program and traveled in September with two Hillcrest teachers, Trisha Brunazzi, gifted/STEM education coordinator, and Thomas Swenson, fifth grade English language, to visit Chinese schools in Shenzhen and meet with Chinese educators. IFA-EDU China covered the expenses of the Norwin educators to go to China.

The school board in March hired Brunazzi and Swenson as coordinators of the IFA-EDU China program for the 2019-20 school year, but the district said there is no need for the positions since the program has ended.

A group of about 16 Chinese students attended Hillcrest Intermediate School for about three weeks last fall, under the auspices of the IFA-EDU program.

McCracken said, however, the feedback she received from the staff at Hillcrest was that there was “negative impact” from having the Chinese students in the classroom, essentially a disruption.

Director Tracey Czajkowski, who hosted Chinese educators during their stay, said she was “disappointed in how it was put together.”

“It could have been a tremendous learning experience,” Czajkowski said.

One of the Chinese teachers with the program “did not know three-fourths of the students” and another also did not know the students.

“I think they were more interested in shopping in America than the learning experience,” Czajkowski said.

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