Mayor joins SD70 China recruiting drive

Alberni city council voted to allow Douglas to travel with SD70 officials to China to help recruit international students

Helping recruit new students, flying the flag and demonstrating the city’s commitment to a School District 70 initiative are behind Mayor John Douglas’s upcoming trio to China.

City council voted to allow Douglas to accompany SD 70 officials to Enshi, China this spring. The trip will be underwritten with money from the city’s general contingency fund.

The move was sparked by a presentation to councillors by SD 70 superintendent Cam Pinkerton on Monday.

Pinkerton said the district started recruiting foreign students to SD 70 three years ago. The initiative would create revenue through fees that would help offset budget pressures caused by declining enrolment.

SD 70 takes $17,000 in fees per year: $10,000 in tuition, $7,000 for home stay, plus other money for discretionary spending on computers, cars and spending money, Pinkerton said.

Under the arrangement, students study BC school curriculum in China for two years then come here to study their final two years.

Chinese families sending their children and paying fees are actually an investment “in the greatest asset they have — their children,” Pinkerton said.

The city benefits from the investment because most if not all of the money taken in is spent in the city, and families look to start a small business later for their children to parachute into, he added.

Unlike in Canada, Chinese municipalities have jurisdiction in education, said Eric Gibb, spokesperson for Advanced Global Education Strategies.

Sending the mayor along on a recruiting trip is sending an implicit message to Chinese education officials, Gibb said. “The mayor’s visit gives us stability,” he said.

Diplomacy and visiting can be done cheaper via Skype for Facetime, Coun. Cindy Solda said.

“You can build relationships with technology but that human-to-human element is important,” Pinkerton said.

Times are tough, the city is under pressure not to spend so how much is it going to cost, Coun. Jack McLeman asked. The district does such trips for $3,000, and Douglas’ end can be cost-shared with the district, Pinkerton said.

Understanding the cultural aspect to business is important, Coun. Hira Chopra said. “Asian culture is different from the west, families are the biggest asset,” he said. “If we lose their trust you’ll never see them again.”

Douglas said he “felt like a piece of meat” being offered up.  He’s be happy to stay at home but would go if instructed by council.

The vote passed.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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Edited to clarify which city fund is underwriting the trip.