Oxford signs sister school agreements in Mexico

On Monday, October 22 and Wednesday, October 24, administrators from Oxford Community Schools signed sister school agreements with Juana de Asbaje primary school in Tlalnepantla de Baz, Mexico and Bachillerato 5 de Mayo High School in Puebla, Mexico. The declaration of sisterhood celebrations included many colorful displays, orchestra, choir and mariachi music, students performing an Indian dance and a parade of the United Nations, native cuisine prepared by parents, and gift exchanges.
The agreement between Oxford Community Schools and the Juana de Asbaje primary school symbolizes the first international sister school relationship sanctioned by the government in the state of Mexico. The formal signing ceremony, with several school and government officials in attendance, took place in the Municipal Palace (City Hall) of Tlalnepantla, with Arturo Ugalde Meneses, the Municipal President (Mayor) signing along with the Principal, Pascual Portillo Chávez.  All of the cabinet members were also present.  “We have already had several exchanges between Oxford students and the students at Juana de Asbaje,” stated Paul McDevitt, Principal of Leonard Elementary School. “There is only a one-hour difference in time zones, so we can Skype regularly with our Spanish classes and their English classes.” Both schools have similar technologies to facilitate seamless communication, including interactive whiteboards, wi-fi and student netbooks.
Bachillerato 5 de Mayo High School is a candidate high school for International Baccalaureate World Authorization. It is affiliated with Benemerita Univesidad Autonoma de Puebla (BUAP) (Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla), which is the oldest and largest University in the Puebla State of Mexico.  Oxford High School Principal Todd Dunckley first met Academic Administrator Amparo Galicia Alvarez at an IB training at Lake Tahoe in June, 2012, where they quickly recognized the common missions of each school and a mutual desire to expand opportunities in both educational communities. As sister schools, taking advantage of modern technologies and the Internet, students will work collaboratively on common academic and service projects, benefiting from the multiple cross-cultural perspectives. According to Kurt Nuss, Assistant Principal and IB Diplomma Programme Coordinator for Oxford High School, “The goal of the partnership is to provide real world connections and opportunities to learn through ever increasing cross-cultural connections.” The virtual immersion nature of Skype will aid in language development for students at both schools. Plans are underway to provide opportunities for student visits and exchanges between Oxford and 5 de Mayo HS, both as hosts and guests.
“I will never forget this trip,” said Dr. William Skilling, Superintendent of Oxford Community Schools. “Together with our new friends in Mexico, we have made a strong commitment to pave the way for students to become better prepared to live and work in our global world. The people of Mexico are so loving, friendly and hospitable. We hope to honor them as they have honored us when they visit Oxford in the spring.”
The Honorable Vicente Sánchez Ventura, Consulate of Mexico in Detroit, was influential in pairing the primary schools in Mexico and Oxford. Dr. Skilling first connected with Mr. Sánchez in June of 2010, through the district’s Automation Alley membership, and the two entities have since supported one another in encouraging students to learn more about the world around them. The relationship has afforded Oxford students access to the Bicentennial Library Collection from Mexico, thanks to a generous book donation, as well as the opportunity to see live performances of authentic Mexican music by native artistes.
Oxford Community Schools has an intense focus on second-language disciplines. It’s Fifth Core World Language & Culture Program was recently recognized as the 2012 winner of Automation Alley’s Educational Program of the Year Award. Named the Fifth Core to denote the importance it carries in Oxford’s curriculum, the program is an 11-year requirement for all students to receive daily world language and culture instruction beginning in kindergarten. Oxford provides a model global learning environment in which every student will be fluent in another world language (Spanish or Mandarin Chinese) and its culture/customs by 10th grade. The global initiatives Oxford has undertaken and implemented in the past five years are also deemed part of its Fifth Core. Those initiatives include International Baccalaureate World School authorization for every school, a boarding school for international students (the Oxford International Residence Academy), an international high school in China (the Northeast Yucai Oxford International High School) and sister school relationships with eighteen premier schools across the globe (England, Spain, South Africa, Mexico and China).
About Oxford Community Schools
Oxford Community Schools has more than 5,000 students in pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade. There are nine schools that comprise the district, including five elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, one early learning center and one alternative high school. Oxford is also home to the Oxford Virtual Academy, the Oxford Academy of Engineering & Technology and the Oxford Arts Conservatory (opening fall 2013).