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Greenwich Adds IB Program at Western Middle

The much-debated International Baccalaureate Program at Western Middle School was approved in a vote of the Board of Education on Thursday night after parents and PTA representatives lobbied in support of it.

Marlene Gilbert, co-president of Western Middle School’s PTA, said the school’s teachers, students and parents have an all-around positive feeling about the IB program. “Our teachers are taking our current curriculum, not a new IB curriculum, and beginning to deliver that curriculum through the IB framework,” Gilbert said at the school board meeting at New Lebanon Elementary School. “This involves challenging and engaging students in new ways, encouraging students to be inquirers, good communicators, principled, open-minded, caring and risk-takers. These are all skills our children need to succeed in today’s world.”

The board voted 6-1 to approve the program, with board member Marianna Ponns Cohen dissenting. Before the motion, Ponns Cohen said she does not support IB and will continue to inform the public of the downsides of the program, referring to an opinion letter she sent to media outlets in late January.

International Baccalaureate Program is a globally minded education program designed to develop “inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect,” according to its mission statement. The program fosters a cross-subject approach in framing curriculum, much like those outlined in the district’s Vision of the Graduate . Western Middle School will begin pursuing IB accreditation over the next two to three years.

The board had approved IB's Primary Years Program as a magnet feature for New Lebanon Elementary School in 2010-11 and at International School and Dundee in 2003. The board said there is no master plan to convert Greenwich to an "IB District." However, the board also voted 6-1, again with Ponns Cohen as the dissenting vote, to request a report from Greenwich Superintendent Sidney Freund in fall on the program and the possibility of rollout at other middle schools and the high school.

The estimated cost of the program, which will include professional development training funded through Title 2 Grants, is about $90,000 in the first year, an additional operating budget to pay for program administrators, as well as an annual candidacy fee of $9,500.

Be part of the conversation: What do you think about the school board’s decision? Comment below or email your opinion to ahelhoski@mainstreetconnect.us .

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