LEE, Maine — The first high school in Maine, if not U.S., to have a sister school in South Korea is planning to launch an institution in the Philippines, its headmaster said Saturday.
A group of South Korean businessmen is working with Lee Academy Headmaster Bruce Lindberg to open another campus at a former U.S. Navy base in Subic Bay that has more recently become a free economic zone, Lindberg said.
“We were recommended to this Korean group by the Korean Ministry of Education because of our success of [building a Lee Academy] in the city of Daegu, South Korea,” Lindberg said. “If you want to think of it, Lee Academy is franchising itself. Our first franchise is in the city of Daegu … Now we have been approached by a group of Koreans to do the same thing.”
If all goes well, the new school would be ready in September 2014. Besides complementing the Daegu school, both schools infuse $100,000-$200,000 in franchising fees annually into the school and give all Maine students — not just those at Lee Academy in Lee — a chance to study abroad. The first Maine high schoolers to study in Daegu will leave early next year, Lindberg said.
Lindberg encouraged Maine high schoolers interested in studying abroad to contact the academy at 738-2252, saying that the Daegu opportunity is unique among most international student experiences.
“It is a Maine high school curriculum [at Daegu] so they [Maine high schoolers] are not losing time by studying abroad,” he said.
Lee Academy’s forays since 2007 into Daegu and China, as well as its other international student markets, have paid for much of a $3 million facelift and expansion of its campus and staff this summer.
The school recently bought three houses near the campus; is building a soccer field, tennis courts, walking trails, bleachers, concession stands and a well and septic system on 14 of 38 acres off Winn Road donated to the academy; remodeled its dining hall kitchen; waterproofed the school gymnasium; and renovated the science lab, guidance department, library and several classrooms at the academy main classroom building.
Lindberg also hired the school’s first chief financial officer, Mary Morris of East Millinocket, and the school’s first Chinese interpreter, cook and medical practitioner, Renli Fang, a Beijing native. Both started work this month. The school is also preparing to host a Health Access Network satellite clinic for its students and residents in Lee next month.
Besides paying for the new hires, the expansion has injected about $250,000 directly into the local economy. Lee Academy awarded bids to local contractors such as Larry Ham Construction of Lincoln, Lindberg said.
This year, the school has 115 dormitory students, of whom 100 are foreigners, and this at a time when most northern Maine public populations are decreasing. Lee Academy is a private high school that contracts with School Administrative District 30 to educate students from Lee, Springfield, Winn, Webster Plantation, Carroll Plantation, Drew Plantation, Reed Plantation, Macwahoc Plantation and Lakeville.
About 165 students are tuitioned through SAD 30 this year, Lindberg said. Last year, the school had 104 international students, including 90 from Asian countries. The school is also hosting students from Thailand, Turkey and Switzerland for the first time this year.
“We’re not only growing but we are diversifying and that’s very important for us,” Lindberg said. “Our boarding program but more importantly our international program is growing every year.”
“Diversity adds dimension to a student’s educational base. I am a product of a Maine high school but everyone at my high school worshipped at the same church, ate the same type of meals. My world was that of probably a 50 mile radius,” Lindberg said.
“Our local students benefit because now they have a whole different perspective on the world. They know people face-to-face from various countries throughout the world. They understand different cultures,” he added. “Their real-life experience really touches them rather than [coming] through a textbook, which is really kind of artificial.”