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Rural N.Y. School Using Foreign Students to Boost Diversity, Enrollment

One rural New York superintendent and principal has found an innovative way to boost student diversity and enrollment while helping the district's bottom line.

Clark "Skip" Hults, the superintendent and principal of Newcomb Central School District in Newcomb, N.Y., has been recruiting international students to his pre-K-12th grade school in the heart of the Adirondack mountains for the past six years.

The small, one-school rural district has hosted about 60 students from more than 60 countries since the program started, and its enrollment has more than doubled to 105 students.

Hults has become a national leader on this issue. He's helping a dozen other Vermont and New York school districts replicate the program, and he's slated to speak about it at the National School Boards Association conference in April. He's also among the lead advocates for legislation that would allow foreign exchange students to stay longer in the United States.

A full profile on Hults is part of an Education Week special section, Leaders to Learn From, that's published online starting this week. It's the first of what will be an annual report in which we highlight 15 to 16 district-level leaders nationwide who are putting creative ideas into practice to improve their school systems.

Hults' local newspaper, the Glens Falls Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y., ran a story late last week about Hults being featured as one of the country's Leaders to Learn From.

Hults is an interesting guy. This didn't make it into the story, but he has a track record of taking a unique approach. Here's an excerpt of his biography from the school district's website:

"As a teacher, he received a number of awards including the School of the Future Award for his community outreach and learning experience 'Edison's Closet.' This unique program was run by students and allowed immigrant families, in need to clothing, to receive them, free of charge. He also received the Professional and Curriculum Development Award for a series of lessons entitled "Adirondack Mountains, Learning by Experience." In 2000, he received New York's highest teaching recognition by the New York State Academy for Teaching and Learning."

It's also worth mentioning that he ends up spending a good chunk of his time explaining the international student recruitment program to others who are interested in it, mostly media and other educators.

"It was a lot of work in the beginning, and it still is a lot of work," he told me when we talked by phone.

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