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Janesville schools initiative reaches another part of globe

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Frank Schultz
April 29, 2013

— Superintendent Karen Schulte has made it clear she’s interested in bringing students from all over the world to attend Janesville public schools, but even she was surprised last week to get a call from the Middle East.

The man on the phone was calling from the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The man, from the U.S. Embassy, was calling on behalf of someone in Abu Dhabi’s education establishment who had heard of Schulte’s plans and wanted to talk.

The result could be Arabic-speaking students from the United Arab Emirates studying in Janesville. But it’s premature even to say there’s a good chance that will happen.

Schulte has already leveraged the district’s award-winning Chinese-language program to make contacts in China in the hopes of bringing tuition-paying Chinese students here.

Some Chinese students are scheduled to arrive here this summer for a short program, although the Boston bombings have caused some families to hold off, Schulte said.

Two Chinese teachers arrived here this semester to learn about American education practices.

Schulte wants Chinese high school students to enroll here and pay tuition, and she’s looking at the district’s already established connections with Thailand, Argentina, Mexico and elsewhere to find even more students.

The man in Abu Dhabi, Manal El Masry, was calling from the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Schulte said.

That rang a bell. On one of her recent trips to China, Schulte learned that the U.S. Commercial Service can provide resources and contacts that could help Schulte “globalize” education back in Wisconsin.

Word of Schulte’s ideas for Janesville apparently filtered out to the Commercial Service’s offices around the world.

El Masry told Schulte that the Abu Dhabi Education Council had expressed interest and wants to meet with Janesville officials.

The council’s goals include improving education “in accordance with the highest international standards,” according to its website.

Schulte said the next step is to set up the meeting and find out if Janesville and Abu Dhabi educators have common interests.

“I’m not sure of the extent of the interest, but they want to meet school district people in regard to K-12 education, so we’ve been trying to find a time we can all meet and talk about what it is exactly we want to do and they want to do,” Schulte said.

The push to make Janesville a destination for students around the globe comes from two needs, as Schulte and the school board see it.

One is the need to expose local students to the realities of the global marketplace and global opportunities in the 21st century.

The other is to shore up district finances.

Tuition-paying students could boost district revenues at a time when local and state funding is a biennial question mark.

The school board has told Schulte to increase enrollment, and bringing in foreign students is one way Schulte is trying to follow those orders.

It’s a long-range project, however. Don’t look for masses of foreign students next fall.

“We’re really just starting some of this,” said Schulte, who plans another trip to China in June.



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