Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Visit to Montgomery High in Santa Rosa

Yesterday a few of us from Redwood went to Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa to see the International Baccalaureate program in action. Redwood has decided to apply to become an IB school and Montgomery High is the closest IB school to Marin County. IB, as the name implies, is a curriculum of internationally-focused education for the last two years of high school.

Nancy Neu, our principal, and Steve Butler, the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, lead this second group from Redwood to visit Montgomery, which has had an IB program for at least ten years. Our group consisted of three math teachers, two English teachers, a social studies teacher and myself.

After hearing about the program in general and some of the local experiences from the director of the program at MHS, we discussed one of the signature courses of the program, the Theory of Knowledge class, with the current teacher and then met and chatted with several of the students in the program. All the experiences they reported were very positive. Both the kids and the teacher were enthusiastic about their support of IB.

The second half of the morning was spent by teachers visiting IB classes. I chose go to the library and interview the library media teacher, who I had never met before. Kate Farrell has been librarian at Montgomery for five years. One day a week she also serves as the librarian at two(!) elementary schools in the district. Kate is nearing retirement from a varied life in librarianship and the world of children's literature. She developed a very successful story-telling program in her earlier years and even worked at the state level giving story-telling workshops around the state. She was a librarian in the SFUSD for several years and while with the district served as a liaison with the SF Public Library.

She mentioned a couple things which I think we will have to consider if we decided to become an IB school. One is that in IB there are two history courses, both with a more international focus than what we may be used to. The first course, for juniors, is the history of the Americas and it requires more materials than most school libraries have on Latin America. The senior course has a world-wide focus and so requires more materials which consider the international implications of history.
The other requirement is strong support for fairly high-level research resources of all kinds. This need is generally met these days with online subscription databases. Montgomery students are fortunate in that they have access to the SF Public Library databases which are very rich and diverse.

In all, I thought the trip was very useful and it was my first taste of what Redwood students and staff will need to be provided by the library in order to succeed in this intriguing and potentially wonderful new educational program.

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