Niskayuna CSD, Chinese school near partnership deal

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BY ZACHARY MATSON
Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — Niskayuna school officials are closing in on a formal partnership with a private Montessori school in China to share curriculum and establish an exchange program for students and teachers.

Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr. noted that no final agreement has been reached, but an outline of the partnership is starting to take shape, as Niskayuna prepares a draft contract to send to the Chinese school in the next week or two.

As envisioned under the deal, Niskayuna would supply Beijing-based Wisdom International Education Group with curriculum plans, as the group expands into middle school and eventually high school grades at one of its schools. Niskayuna would also provide expertise in implementing the curriculum, including providing unit plans developed by Niskayuna teachers.

The Chinese school hopes to model itself on Niskayuna’s secondary schools. In return, Niskayuna students and faculty would have a chance to travel to China and host Chinese students in Niskayuna.

Tangorra said he is working under the assumption that the partnership would come at “no cost” to Niskayuna.
He said Wisdom officials indicated as much to him in conversations so far.

He said the costs covered by Wisdom would include travel and any work by teachers or administrators involved in helping Wisdom employees.

“Any costs in terms of sending folks back and forth would be borne by them,” he said.

After a visit to the Beijing school in November, Tangorra said he was “very impressed” by the program, which offers dual-language education — Chinese and English — and pulls from both Chinese and international student populations.

The Niskayuna school board was given a draft of the agreement before its Feb. 14 meeting and offered feedback. At the meeting, the board briefly discussed the plans. Tangorra told the board he has spoken with local colleges and other schools interested in watching, as the potential partnership develops.

“The more I talk to other institutions and the more other institutions hear what we are doing, the more interested people are,” Tangorra told the board.

At the meeting and in an interview, Tangorra warned it’s possible a final agreement won’t materialize. But he also said he and Wisdom officials have discussed many specific details about what the partnership would look like.
The district is working with its attorney to incorporate feedback from school board members and send off a draft contract in the next week or two — that would be the start of negotiations.

Tangorra said he didn’t plan to make the contract public until it was finalized and ready to go to the school board for final approval. He did say he hoped to finalize an agreement in the next month or two.

Catherine Snyder, head of the Clarkson University Education Department, based in Schenectady, and a former Niskayuna teacher with experience in China, plans to visit the Beijing school on behalf of Niskayuna while in China for a recruitment trip next month.

Representatives from the Chinese school are planning to visit Niskayuna in April and would meet with teachers and administrators.