WHRHS will host 46 Chinese students for two weeks May 14 to 26 and are seeking suggestions for extra-curricular activities the students might enjoy.
School Committee member Steven Bois, who works at the JFK Presidential Library, offered to host a visit to that venue as his guests.
“If you end up doing a cookout, I’ll flip burgers,” member Fred Small said.
The students’ visit to W-H, for which the school is working with Alpha Exchange, is being undertaken in the hope that W-H students will visit a school in China next year, said Principal Jeffrey Szymaniak.
The ultimate goal is bringing a bit of Chinese culture to the school with the hope it will lead to adding another language to the curriculum, according to Szymaniak.
“I know the committee has talked about foreign language quite a bit, and monetarily we don’t do that well,” he said. “Our goal, when I got here, was to add Chinese as a language — we haven’t been able to do that.”
The exchange visit’s original plan was that the Chinese students would stay with host families in the Whitman and Hanson communities, but Szymaniak said it appeared to be a long commitment for some families.
Arrangements right now are being made for the students to stay in Braintree hotels for the two weeks, where easy access to the MBTA and the movies offer options for things to do outside of school hours.
“What we’re going to do is try to involve them in our [school] culture as best we can,” Szymaniak said. “They’re going to be here during the school day, they’re going to follow the students’ schedule for part of the day.”
Alpha Exchange also offers a stipend to teachers willing to teach a class of specific interest to the Chinese students. Szymaniak has already uploaded the WHRHS schedule to the group’s website so the visiting students may make course selections based on the school’s enrollment and available space in a given class.
“If you have any fun events that weekend [May 20-21], we’re looking for something,” Szymaniak said, noting he has already arranged for them to attend school sports events and a performance of the school’s rock band and show choir. “I think they think Whitman and Hanson are as big as the cities in China.”
Special education director
In other business, the School Committee on Wednesday, April 12 voted to appoint Kyle Riley as administrator of special education to replace the departing Administrator Dr. John Quealy.
Not a new position, the appointment has no effect on the budget.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner, who sat in on the second round of interviews, recommended Riley, currently the Haverhill special education director. A search committee headed by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Patrick Dillon, which included educators and parents, conducted the first round of interviews.
Riley has also worked in the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District.
“I try to put kids first all the time, every single day,” he said, noting he is also certified as a business manager.
Quealy also provided an overview of the special education program for the committee, the overall mission of which is to identify students who are not making effective academic or social-emotional progress and to create plans to help support those students.
Inclusion is a major goal of the program, covering children and youths ages 3 to 22, he said. On a daily basis, the district manages about 600 individual education plans — about 15 percent of students. The state average is 17 percent.
IEPs cover speech and occupational therapy, hearing and vision aid, transportation, counseling and behavior support, among other programs.
Gilbert-Whitner also noted the financial impact of special education on school budgets, as state Circuit Breaker and federal support — which is supposed to cover 40-percent of costs, but only covers 16 percent — have fallen short.