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Greater Latrobe group's New York field trip set

| Wednesday, May 9, 2012, 11:24 p.m.

It took several weeks of tough negotiations, but a group of students in the Greater Latrobe School District are once again looking forward to visiting the "Big Apple" next spring.

High school student council leaders stepped up to the bargaining table last month after administrators grounded an annual student-funded field trip to New York City.

Principals said the planned outing lacked educational ties to the Internet, Exploratory and International Business course that sponsors the two-school-day excursion in April.

IEI is a full-year, one-credit, activity based elective for students in grades 10, 11 and 12 to study the stock market, business planning, marketing, advertising and finance.

When a number of students were dropping other courses in favor of IEI solely because of the trip, administrators put on the brakes, saying that it seemed more like "sightseeing" than business study.

Students objected and their student council representatives opened a dialogue with the administration to suggest changes that might allow them to reconsider.

But it wasn't easy.

"They were finally satisfied," Student Council President Alex Smith said Thursday.

The talks were civil, "but after our third hour-long meeting with the administrators, we had made all the changes they had asked for and they still weren't happy with it," said Smith, a senior.

Smith said it took "two or three closed-door sessions" between administrators and teacher Mary Wade before administrators finally relented yesterday.

"We're happy now. The only thing we wanted was for the kids to be able to go to New York," Smith said. "Many parents and teachers also thought this trip would be very beneficial, but we had to convince the administration."

Assistant Principal Georgia Teppert said administrators were never actually "against" the trip, and there had never been any behavioral problems.

"We just wanted to ensure that it was educationally sound," Teppert said.

In addition to itinerary changes, students will now be required to give oral and written presentations upon their return and participate in panels and other group projects with students who do not go on the trip.

Another suggestion from students had been to limit the trip to A and B students.

But that policy has been extended to C students, as well, "as long as we are sure that they are putting forth their best effort," Teppert said.

"The students were great. They handled this very responsibly," she said, commending Smith and fellow student Pete Klugh for "coming up with the ideas" that led to the curriculum changes.

Smith, who has not yet decided whether he is even going on the trip, said he took up the cause "because I was elected as the student council president and I take that very seriously. I saw it as my job to serve the student body."

The effort produced a good result, he admitted.

"Now the trip will be more educational and the curriculum will be more of an introduction for the trip," Smith said. "The trip is now a capstone to the new IEI."

"There's much more accountability now," Teppert said.

The trip still needs school board approval, said Principal John Andrighetti.

Several board members, however, have spoken out in favor of the trip.

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