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The International Baccalaureate Program participants gave a presentation at the weekly Rotary meeting Monday. Jeanne Payne, left, speaks with Dr. George Hansberry before the meeting.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
The International Baccalaureate Program participants gave a presentation at the weekly Rotary meeting Monday. Jeanne Payne, left, speaks with Dr. George Hansberry before the meeting.

City's IB programs growing accomplishing goals of many
Decatur, Austin expected to
have 100 students entering 3rd year

By Bayne Hughes 340-2432

Decatur's International Baccalaureate Diploma programs are growing at a phenomenal rate and accomplishing all they expected, school officials, students and industrial recruiters told the Rotary Club of Decatur on Monday.

Jeanne Payne, director of curriculum for Decatur City Schools, told the club that she expects Austin and Decatur high schools' IB Diploma Programs to have 100 or more students enrolled when the programs enter their third year.

Decatur High began its honors program for juniors and seniors last year with nine students, while Austin High had three. The two are up to a combined 48 this year.

With 90 freshmen and sophomores in the two school's Pre-Diploma programs, Payne said, the Diploma Program should easily pass the century mark.

"That's phenomenal growth," Payne said.

IB training

Those numbers don't include students who aren't in the Diploma Program but are benefiting from International Baccalaureate because about 225 teachers have been through IB training. The school system is implementing the IB Middle Years Program for grades 6-10 and the IB Primary Years Program at the two magnet elementary schools.

IB inspectors will be in Decatur on Thursday and Friday to look at the Middle Years Program and make a recommendation on whether to let the middle schools become official IB schools. Payne said inspectors plan to look at Benjamin Davis' and Leon Sheffield's Primary Years Programs in November.

Austin band director and music teacher John Cooper said the IB Diploma Program is accomplishing more than he expected in the curriculum. He said the program teaches students how to evaluate and relate old information to new situations.

Decatur High student Sara Seabrook and Austin student Ashley Gholston, both seniors, said that while IB is difficult and time consuming, including many late-night study sessions, they are accomplishing more than they expected. Both participate outside the classroom in several extracurricular activities.

They said they are getting the rigorous academic load they feel prepares them for the future and the attention they want from colleges and universities. Seabrook said they've gotten invitations for private tours from most of the state's universities.

Gholston said The University of Alabama at Birmingham accepted her and she plans to become a doctor in pediatric sports medicine.

"Hopefully, scholarships will follow," Gholston said.

Recruiting newcomers

Besides the academic benefits, another benefit of IB is it has given city officials an
attraction for recruiting newcomers to the city. Jeremy Nails, president of Morgan County Economic Development Association, said the county's newest company, AlphaPet, wouldn't be moving here if it weren't for IB.

Tia Martin's family was a "reluctant" transfer as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's plan to move about 4,500 jobs to Redstone Arsenal. Her husband works for the U.S. Department of Defense, and she said they chose Decatur because of the IB program.

"I still talk to a lot of families and friends in Virginia who might be a part of BRAC," Martin said. "They ask me what Alabama is like, and I tell them I wouldn't hesitate to move to Decatur. The school system is excellent."

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