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Harford school leader plans China trip

The Harford County Public Schools superintendent — possibly with as many as four of his school principals — is headed to China in November, a trip partially funded by the school system.

Superintendent Robert Tomback, C. Milton Wright High School Principal Marlene Molter, Patterson Mill Middle/High School Principal Wayne Thibeault, Edgewood Middle School Principal Lawrence Rudolph and Edgewood High School Principal Larissa Santos all applied to the 2011 Chinese Bridge Delegation to China.

Chinese Bridge Delegation to China is a program coordinated in the United States by The College Board, the non-profit organization that oversees standardized testing programs used in the college admissions process nationwide.

Although Tomback's application was accepted, none of the four principals have received a response yet, according to the Harford County school system communications office. The trip is scheduled for Nov. 3 through 11 this year and is sponsored by a Chinese organization called Hanban (Confucius Institute Headquarters) through a partnership with The College Board, according to The College Board website.

This program includes international round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, meals and transportation in China, as well as Chinese visa fees, according to the school communications office. It does not include a $900 non-refundable registration fee, which the communications office said the Harford school system would cover.

College Board is coordinating the program, which will allow attendees to visit Chinese schools, meet their educators, observe classes and view presentations on building Chinese language and culture programs, according to the website. Aside from the registration fee, however, all expenses for travel, lodging and food are paid for by Hanban, a College Board spokesperson said Tuesday.

According to the Hanban website, "The program helps the American educators get a new profound understanding of China's society and economy as well as Chinese language, culture and education."

Thibeault was not available at his school Tuesday, where a staff member said he had jury duty. Molter referred inquiries to the school central office. Tomback typically does not respond directly to media inquiries and the media office was unable to provide comments from him as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Harford County Board of Education has recent experience with The College Board. Earlier this year, Tomback proposed in his 2012 budget that the school system, rather than students and their parents, pay for Advanced Placement examinations. The tests are among those sanctioned by The College Board.

Tomback proposed $223,242 for an AP pilot program through College Board that would pay for one AP exam for nearly 2,600 students. In a January meeting, however, school board member Robert Frisch introduced an amendment to remove the funding from the 2012 budget. The amendment passed, 4-3, and the funding was eliminated.

At the time, Frisch argued that removing the fiscal responsibility for paying for the tests from parents and students may make them less motivated to score better on the AP exams, which Frisch said would lead to lower grades during a time when, according to him, colleges are increasing the minimum score a student needs for college credit.

School Board President Leonard Wheeler could not be contacted Tuesday for comment about Tomback's planned China trip.

Board Vice President Rick Grambo said he was made aware of the trip but did not recall any specific details.

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