MILLINOCKET, Maine — The international student program school officials started nearly five years ago, partly to create new revenue amid chronic budget cuts, has grown significantly over last year, Superintendent Frank Boynton said recently.
According to a report presented to the Millinocket School Committee last week, the program had a $252,301 balance as of January, about $100,000 more than anticipated a year ago, Boynton said. There are currently eight international students enrolled at Stearns High School, up from four a year ago.
The program balance is derived from $375,095 in revenues offset by $122,794 in expenses. The revenues include $183,874 in local tuition, $23,610 generated by a summer program held for international students last year, $333 in miscellaneous revenues, and $167,278 in dual diploma programs — programs wherein Stearns High School curricula is taught at Chinese high schools in the cities of LiRen, Zibo, Beijing and Shanghai, according to Boynton’s three-page report to the committee.
The $122,794 in expenses arises from $75,084 in consulting services, $25,032 in housing, $5,610 in busing, $5,209 in student meals, $4,062 in supplemental travel, meals and lodging expenses, and various other expenses, the report states.
The program, which largely consists of students from China, “could grow if the economy in China stays good,” Boynton said Thursday. “We are developing some very strong relationships with the schools there.”
Previous Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Smith and school board members described the international program as the school system’s best hope for surviving the economic downturn of the Katahdin region when they launched the program in 2011.
But student-recruitment difficulties, administrative challenges and difficulties balancing the books contributed to the program netting what town officials estimated was as little as $200 in one fiscal year. That, and reductions in state funding created an overall budget deficit that now sits at $397,602, Boynton said.
The school’s present budget is $6.2 million, Boynton said.
Besides accepting international students at Stearns, the school offers one- to two-week summer programs for international students that feature heavy concentrations in English and American culture. Seven of the school system’s eight international students are from Asian countries, including one who arrived last week, Boynton said. The other student is from Latin America.
International students attending Stearns pay $27,000 each in tuition. Of that, the school system nets $10,850 per student, Boynton said.
Boynton, who inherited the deficit from the previous administration, said he plans to take $200,000 from the international program and put it toward this year’s school budget. More revenue is likely to come in before the budget year ends on June 30, he said.
“Further amounts will be transferred from the international funds and applied toward the deficit at the end of the school year when all expenses have been paid. Approximately $15,000 will be retained to cover summer camp expenses that are incurred prior to receipt of the summer camp fees,” Boynton wrote in his report.
Boynton reviewed the program finances with the school board on Tuesday and gave an overview of the program to the Town Council on Thursday for the benefit of councilors newly elected in November. Councilors expressed satisfaction with the program and the school administration’s efforts.