The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 17, 2009

Concord-Carlisle High School to expand Turkmenistan connection

What do you do when the U.S. Department of State calls and offers you a sizeable grant to expand your sister-school relationship with the Balkanabat School #17 in Turkmenistan? Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) English teacher David Nurenberg would say you stay on the line and get the details. On June 23 the Regional School Committee (RSC) approved Nurenberg’s request to accept the federal grant to fund a new exchange program for teachers, to be held during 2010 and 2011.

Nurenberg is no stranger to Turkmenistan. He was awarded a grant by the U.S. State Department and spent two weeks in April 2008, working in the Balkanabat School #17. Later, Nurenberg received a grant from the U.S. State Department Public Affairs office to fund two exchange students from that school. They came to CCHS for the first semester last year and became part of the fabric of the school, staying with host families in Concord.

Recently, the Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs of the State Department offered CCHS participation in the US/Turkmenistan Secondary School Linkages Program. The program is a two-year exchange of teachers between CCHS and schools in Turkmenistan, including Balkanabat School #17. The program will fund five to ten CCHS teachers to go to Turkmenistan for ten days in February, 2010 and will fund a visit of a siimilar number of Turkmenistan teachers to CCHS for two weeks in October, 2010. Exchanges will be repeated in 2011. Nurenberg will be the local coordinator for the program, which is administered by American Councils for International Education.

Nurenberg told the RSC that the State Department will pay for airfare, visas, orientations, translators and modest stipends for participants. There are a number of goals for each study tour including site visits, roundtable discussions, going to cultural events, observation of activities and workshops that will lead to insight into the Turkmenistan culture and open communication between the two countries. Teachers will visit classrooms as well as libraries and recreational centers. They are expected to see how things are done, develop partnerships, illustrate best practices and see how youth are involved outside the classroom.

Teachers will also meet with community leaders to learn about how schools and the community interact. By experiencing life in Turkmenistan, the teachers can learn about the culture, diversity, different ethnic groups and religions of the region. Another goal is to increase knowledge of the political systems and governmental structures. There will be time for the teachers of both countries to plan future activities together.

For CCHS, the program helps meet the goal of giving students a global education. Teachers who participate will be chosen across departments and will be expected to bring their experiences back into their classrooms.

American Councils will work with CCHS to devise a schedule that is acceptable to both the high school and the Turkmenistan Ministry of Education. The tentative schedule is for CCHS teachers to visit Turkmenistan over February break. The trip is expected to take ten days, or one day beyond the school vacation. The regional school district is expected to fund substitutes for any days missed by CCHS staff and Nurenberg expects to keep this to a minimum.

RSC member Louis Salemy commended Nurenberg for his efforts. The RSC approved a plan to allow the teacher exchange.

Student exchange needs hosts

The RSC also approved a plan to accept two Turkmenistan exchange students this fall for the first semester, late August to early February. Host families are stilll needed. The State Department feels the exchange is a good way to continue the relationship between the two sister schools. They will fund the exchange students’ airfares, visas, health insurance and give a small monthly stipend, about $150 for the students.

In a memo Superintendent Rigby states, “The Turkmenistan exchange students are expected to have strong English skills, strong overall grades, excellent behavior and maturity, adaptability and interest in participating the class, school and community events. In addition, upon their return to Balkanabat, they will educate their peers about their experiences in America and do what they can to maintain our sister-school relationship.” Students will be 14 to 16 years old. The RSC waived tuition for the two students, which they do regularly for exchange students. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito