MILLINOCKET, Maine — Stearns High School’s international student program could generate at least $150,000 this year with new contracts recently signed by three Chinese high schools, Superintendent of Schools Frank Boynton said.
Boynton cautioned at a town council meeting on Thursday that the $150,000 figure was a conservative estimate of what the Millinocket School Department will get from the use of Stearns’ curricula at two high schools in Beijing and one in Shanghai. Millinocket already partners with schools in Zibo and LiRen, he said.
“There are dollars there, big ones, but there are also expenses,” Boynton said Thursday.
Boynton, who visited the schools from Dec. 17-24, did not want to inflate local expectations about the program’s profitability with many expenses still undetermined.
Boynton’s 15-minute presentation occurred at the council’s first meeting since a Virginia-based economic development firm issued a report that said residents needed to change their attitudes if the town was make an economic rebound. Councilors are still reviewing the nine-page report from CZB Associates of Alexandria and will discuss it when they are finished, Chairman Richard Angotti said.
The Shanghai contract, which was signed last week, guarantees Millinocket schools $100,000. It will also pay $300 per pupil who enrolls. Enrollment hasn’t occurred, Boynton said.
One Beijing contract that Boynton signed Thursday will charge $1,000 per student and includes a guaranteed payment of $15,000. Millinocket officials await the signing of the second contract, Boynton said.
Councilors appreciated Boynton’s presentation.
“Obviously, the program has helped the town subsidize education and I appreciate your effort in going back there,” Councilor Michael Madore said. “My only concern is we have had a lot of promises in the past” with the international program that weren’t realized.
Previous Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Smith promised big revenues when the program launched in 2011. Student recruitment difficulties contributed to the program netting as little as $200 in one fiscal year. The overseas-based program brought about $125,000 into the regular school budget last year.
Expenses this year include about $3,500 for Boynton’s trip and a fee paid to a student recruiting business. This year, three international students at Stearns are each paying $25,000 tuition. The program has grossed $15,000 from the Zibo and $49,000 from the LiRen high schools so far, Boynton said.
Boynton negotiated the new contracts, reviewed school curricula, visited classrooms and requested data on the students attending the China schools to ensure that students get the promised education.
“I did not want tourist trips. I did not want to see The Great Wall,” said Boynton, who will return to China in April. “It is a tough trip and I am going to be looking at two 10-day trips a year.”