GROTON -- On the heels of plans for students in the high school's music program to do a European tour comes an even more ambitious trip by a handful of top students to China.
The proposed trip was presented by Principal Michael Mastrullo and Assistant Principal Marisa Erisson to members of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee at their meeting Wednesday.
There, the two told committee members that the idea for the trip came from a new Global Studies Committee begun at the school this year which had learned of a company called Educational Tours Inc. that was offering to take students from around the country to a "Shanghai Student Summit" in China next March.
"This represents a tremendous opportunity for our students," Mastrullo told committee members, adding that it would offer a "nice mix" of activities and cultural exchange.
According to Erisson, the Leadership Summit will put students in touch with representatives from private companies with a corporate conscience and the way that conscience is being expressed in how their companies do business.
For instance, said Erisson, a company selling shoes might offer to give a pair away to needy countries for every pair sold to more affluent ones.
The overall aim is inspire a global consciousness in Groton-Dunstable students who might then take the lessons learned either into companies they eventually find jobs with or those they start themselves.
"The Global Studies Committee was started because we were trying to find creative ways to expose students to the world," said Mastrullo.
Unfortunately for students, only six slots were available from Education Tours. But Mastrullo said he was able to prevail upon the company to increase the capacity to nine.
Mastrullo said students going on the trip will join 400 others from around the United States.
Students will represent all of the high school's grades and will have to pay $4,000 each in order to go.
The trip, to take place the week of March 11, is to take in Shanghai as well as Beijing, China's capital city.
"We're doing our best to expose Groton-Dunstable students to the world," said Mastrullo of the summit. "And international trade is part of that world."
Mastrullo said students were selected by their teachers based on their strong academic backgrounds.
Also, the principal told committee members that he did not want to see a massive fundraising effort to help pay for the trip but accepted suggestions that students try to apply for scholarships and grants to cover some of the cost.
Students, said committee member Jon Sjoberg, whose daughter will be one of those going on the trip, encouraged others to investigate funding options and not to dismiss the trip out of hand as unaffordable.
"(The trip) will cost us much more than we're used to," conceded Mastrullo.
Mastrullo said in the long run, the school hoped that the trip would inspire more students in leadership options while helping to bolster the high school's global business programs.
When discussion on the topic ended, committee members voted to approve the trip.
Also on Wednesday, the School Committee was informed by Budget and Finance Subcommittee member James Frey that the district was waiting on the state's Department of Revenue to certify its budget for fiscal 2013 before addressing an estimated $400,000 shortfall.
The bookkeeping error was only recently discovered following a review of this year's budget, forcing district administrators to find places to cut spending in order to balance accounts.
Frey said as things stand, some of the money will come from the district's excess and deficiencies account, some by shifting of resources among departments, and some by way of a handful of noninstructional layoffs.
In addition, a portion of the burden is expected to be carried over to fiscal 2014, plans for which were already well under way before the shortfall was discovered. For that reason, savings might have to be extended beyond 2014 to fiscal 2015.
Blame for the unforeseen shortfall has been centered on inexperience with a new software program and, said Frey, former director of budget and finance Gerry Martin has been contacted and is helping with review of the accounts.
The School Committee was also informed by assistant superintendent Kerry Clery that the district will be participating in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a multi-state initiative concentrating on measuring student progress in mathematics and English language arts as they relate to college and career readiness.
Beginning as early as grade 3, students at Florence Roche, the middle school, and high school, will be tested over the next few years using PARCC standards rather than the MCAS testing that has predominated in Massachusetts in the years since passage of education reform.
The goal of the new testing is to "assess students' ability to think critically and apply knowledge, as opposed to assessing the memorization of facts," which a statement issued by Clery described as MCAS testing's "greatest shortcoming."