Education Program Stirs Controversy in Incline

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Incline Village schools are launching a new program aimed at improving student achievement. Some residents fear it has another agenda.

A number of Incline residents showed up at the Washoe County school board meeting in Reno late Tuesday afternoon with a petition and a message. They are saying no to a program called International Baccalaureate or IB.

Talk to an educator about International Baccalaureate and they will tell you about a curriculum and teaching method that encourages analytical thinking. It's detractors say it's a step backward, worry that it will cost too much and see other agendas at work.

Actually, you'll find a variety of opinion about the program in this north Tahoe community. Many support the program and are raising funds to pay for it. Others worry it is replacing an alternate college preparation program, Advanced Placement or AP.

Local realtor John Eppolito, who's been spearheading the opposition, says if it replaces AP college bound students will be the losers,

"We have the best AP high school in the district now. It's a downgrade. We're going from college level to college preparation."

Incline High's new principal says that's not true. She points out the AP program remains in place and, in fact, has seen an increase in enrollment. "There's a waiting list for both," says Stacey Cooper.

And, she says, no is being forced into either program. In fact, both are just one of the tools being used to help students.

"They get a choice. It's just a part of the tool kit."

While there's concern about funding and and apparent misinformation about whether or not it's replacing another program, there's also an ideological undercurrent to the controversy. Eppolito fears it will indoctrinate students in a philosophy born in the United Nations or its educational arm, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO.

"I read an article yesterday that talked about a global government. That's UNESCO's mission. the way UNESCO is trying to get to that global government is through IB."

"I don't think I'm going to win that argument," says Cooper. "It's not a religion. It's not an ideology. It's just a piece of best practice that I'm trying to enable my teachers, train them so they can best use to to help our kids."

Incline High teacher Aaron Parsons was among those who was skeptical of the program when he first heard about it. It was just one more change in a list of changes the school's faculty was facing and he says the announcement wasn't handled well.

"We were basically told we could get on board or leave" Parson says.

He stayed and says he's changed his mind.

"Once I learned more about it and found out it wasn't replacing anything, I'm no longer skeptical."

The Incline schools are easing their way into IB, asking teachers in the lower grades to use its less traditional, student involvement approach in at least one of their lessons each day.

It won't be in place in the high school until next year.

Opponents vow to continue to fight it.