By ALVIN REINER
---- — NEWCOMB — When Newcomb Central School enrollment dropped to 55 students in 2006, Superintendent Clark “Skip” Hults felt something needed to be done to reverse the trend.
Due to the school’s isolated location, consolidation was not considered an option, so Hults decided to look elsewhere, primarily internationally.
Since 2006, Newcomb has nearly doubled its enrollment to 105. During this time, it has enrolled 60 international students from 25 countries, including Serbia, China, Brazil and Zimbabwe.
For his and the district’s efforts, Hults was recognized recently in a special edition of Education Week, and he will go to Washington, D.C., to attend a function featuring U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other leaders in the field.
The international students who attend Newcomb pay tuition, which has financially assisted the district.
Hults estimates the program will bring in about $250,000 in revenue this year, which covers its expenses and adds to the district’s $3.9 million budget.
The students’ presence also provides cultural enhancement to local youths and the community.
“I believe this has the potential to become a rural norm,” Hults said. “It’s a win-win.”
‘THE BEST THING’
Hults had to weave his way through the intricacies of governmental bureaucracy to obtain the proper visas.
In addition, he is hoping to foster change in regulations that would result in dormitories and would allow international students to stay for more than a year.
Newcomb has established such a good reputation for its program that the district has had to limit applicants.
Out-of-district students have been applying, and, in one case, a family moved to Newcomb because of the program.
Sue Goodspeed said she and her husband, Sterling, and their two sons, Taylor, 19, and Jay, 12, relocated from 25 miles away because of the international-student program.
“It’s the best thing we could ever have done for either of them,” she says of her children.
Mrs. Goodspeed said they felt it would be beneficial for her sons, one of whom is adopted from South Korea, to interact with other cultures. The Goodspeeds have since hosted four international students.
“If it weren’t benefiting our students, I wouldn’t do this program,” Hults told Education Week. “It truly does benefit our students. It has opened their eyes. It has given them broad exposure to the world, and for the kids who come here, they remain a part of our community. I think they will forever.”
Hults has also focused on giving high-school students the opportunity to pursue an associate’s degree from a community college.
Students can already accumulate college credits, and the idea is to see if some can graduate with both a high-school degree and an associate’s degree in either math/science or liberal arts.
“I am extremely excited, as this will help my 13-year-old son,” said Ed La Course, the parent of an eighth-grader. “The money I could save! We will be the flagship of what could change education at the high-school level.
“We will likely be an experiment that will not be duplicated for many years. Will it work? We won’t know for several years, until after the eighth-graders have graduated college. Was it too much? Can an 18-year-old transition to his junior year of college out of high school? Skip Hults is going to find out. I believe this will be his legacy.”
La Course is impressed with the school superintendent.
“What Skip Hults has done is nothing short of amazing,” La Course said. “The international program is obviously a huge success, in my opinion. The fact that enrollment keeps climbing each year is even more amazing.”
Newcomb School Board President Kevin Boland said the recognition being received “is an honor for our school and community. Our superintendent and staff have worked very hard to make this program work, and our community has been very receptive.
“Several areas schools that were once skeptical of the international program are now starting programs of their own.”
Hults is thankful for the cooperation he has received.
“I believe that this honor goes less to me and more to the board, the staff, the students and the community. This program only works because of them. I am the recipient on their behalf.”
Email Alvin Reiner at: firstname.lastname@example.org