Van Nuys : Birmingham Panel to Review Special Classes

Concerned that Birmingham High School's International Baccalaureate program lacks funding and pilfers students from the honors and advanced-placement classes, Birmingham's school-based management council will meet Tuesday to chart the fledgling program's direction.

There is little chance of abolishing the program, which incorporates intensive academic study and a mandatory 150 hours of community service for a specialized degree, Birmingham Principal Gerald Kleinman said.

But, since the program at Birmington was approved in May and was launched in September, Kleinman said, "we need to catch our breath."

Founded in Geneva, Switzerland, about 30 years ago for children of diplomats, the program brings prestige to Birmingham, said program coordinator Terry Gilbert.

Students who complete courses in the program can earn college credit.

In its first year at Birmingham, the International Baccalaureate program attracted about 90 ninth- and 10th-graders, Gilbert reported last week. About 30 came from schools other than Birmingham.

The 60 students taken from the 2,300 enrolled at Birmingham worried parent Leslie Benbassat.

"Will there even be an AP left?" she asked, referring to the advanced-placement classes.

English teacher Sherry Stern derided the IB program as expensive and worthless.

The International Baccalaureate Organization in New York requires an annual affiliation fee of $6,500 to $7,000 and a per-student fee of $65 for juniors and seniors.

Parent Debra Shetford, whose son left private school for an International Baccalaureate education, pledged $200 to Birmingham to help cover costs, as did another parent.

Principal Kleinman instructed the school-based management curriculum committee to further investigate International Baccalaureate, noting that the program might be an edge for Birmingham in the era of open enrollment.

The program will be discussed again at the next school-based management meeting at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Oral Arts room, 17000 Haynes St.

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