Lee Academy to launch K-12 school in Philippines

Posted Oct. 13, 2012, at 3:15 p.m.
Asian students at Lee Academy walk across campus in September 2009.
Asian students at Lee Academy walk across campus in September 2009.

LEE, Maine – Lee Academy will garner another $150,000 and hire at least a dozen more educators and administrators over the next two years as part of launching a new satellite school, this time in the Republic of the Philippines, Headmaster Bruce Lindberg said Saturday.

The K-12 school at the former U.S. Navy base in Subic Bay is due to open March 1. Lindberg signed a contract about two weeks ago with South Korean businessmen who are partnering with the academy to run the school. He will return to the Philippine island of Luzon for a commemoration ceremony on Nov. 24, he said.

“We were able to negotiate the contract and get it done earlier than we expected,” Lindberg said, “and the Asian school calendar begins in March.”

“We are terribly excited over this. Right now I am in the process of hiring teachers and a principal,” he added.

More hiring will follow.

The school is the latest creation of Lee Academy. Lee has a satellite school teaching its American curricula in Daegu, South Korea, and accepts about 50 to 60 Asian international students — mostly South Koreans and Chinese — annually to its campus on Routes 6 and 168. The new school effectively opens a new international student market for the school, Lindberg said.

The school will open to American, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and South Korean students in the Philippines — which has a population of about 92 million — in kindergarten through grade six its first year. It will add a grade every year after.

The school will pay Lee Academy $50,000 its first year, $100,000 the next and a percentage of its gross revenues in the years that follow, he said. As many as 200 students will attend starting in March. The school has a capacity of about 500 students.

A private school that contracts with the state and SAD 30 to teach high schoolers from Lee and several towns around it, Lee Academy is the first high school from Maine, and possibly from the U.S., to franchise its curricula overseas.

The academy franchises its educational offerings to create revenue and complement its local-student population with international students. 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.

Lee Academy students and students from other Maine schools will have the opportunity to attend the Daegu school starting this spring, Lindberg said. He encouraged students or parents interested in joining that effort to contact him.

The international effort has sometimes been rocky. Lee Academy withdrew its support from its first and only school in China about four months ago over a dispute with its Chinese partners, Lindberg said.

“We are supposed to control the educational part. We would want say, we need to hire a phys-ed teacher and it wouldn’t happen,” Lindberg said. “We put off a lot of warning signals and then we finally pulled the plug. The school is still there, operating, but it is not following the Lee Academy educational model.”

“We didn’t want our seal of approval if they didn’t want our philosophies,” he added, saying that Chinese officials and his former partners are still discussing continuing their relationship.

The problems, Lindberg said, should serve as a warning to other Maine schools who are pursuing international students or the establishment of satellite schools in other countries.

“You have to knock on doors. You have to have a presence and you have to develop relationships. It is a huge investment of time,” Lindberg said.

Lindberg travels overseas at least four times a year for visits that take two to three weeks. He has logged, he said, about 700,000 frequent-flier miles since Lee Academy began its franchising to keep the school solvent and well-populated.

The school’s international activities have encouraged a growing number of Maine public schools to pursue international students and overseas satellite programs. Most recently the schools of SAD 46 in Dexter have begun accepting international students, and Millinocket schools are planning to launch a foreign-campus program in China.

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