2015-2016 Will See the 20th Class of International Baccalaureate Diploma Recipients at GHS

    by: Harry Bradley 

    The 20th class of students enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program at Grimsley Senior High School will earn their diplomas in the spring of 2016. It may be helpful to explain a bit about the International Baccalaureate program and give some details about its establishment at GHS.

    The International Baccalaureate program (IB for short) originated in Geneva, Switzerland and was driven by a need to provide a consistent and rigorous academic curriculum for the children of foreign diplomats as they traveled from country to country. IB was formally established in 1968 and the first program in the United States was started in 1971. International Baccalaureate began as a comprehensive, two-year curriculum that awarded a diploma to successful candidates aged 16 through 19. Candidates had to complete required and elective classes in addition to passing exams in six different subjects: world literature, foreign language, social studies, mathematics, science, and the arts. Exams are graded by teachers all over the world, and the scores can be compared directly against the scores of thousands of other IB students in over 150 countries. Over the years, IB has been expanded to include a total of four programs for students aged three to 19: Primary-Years Program, Middle-Years Program, Diploma Program (which we have at GHS), and Careers-Related Program.

    Yearbook Image

    The First IB Class (1997), Courtesy of the Whirligig

    Mr. Thomas J. Penland, principal from August 1993 to September 1996, spearheaded the effort to bring IB to GHS. Preliminary discussions about IB began almost immediately upon his arrival. This fact is not surprising as Mr. Penland had a great deal of exposure to IB during his 10 years of experience at an international school in Malaysia. The official application year was the 1994-1995, school year and Dr. Steven Kee was hired in September of 1994 as our first faculty IB Coordinator [administrator]. The application process involved a comprehensive and very detailed self-evaluation of all academic departments and facilities. The proposed curriculum was developed and defined. Specific materials such as books and equipment were all carefully listed, noting those that were on hand and those that were needed. Projected budgets for all needed items were developed as was a budget for operation of the entire IB program for the first few years. Budget information was shared with the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jerry Weast, and the Guilford County Board of Education. 

    Another significant aspect of the application process involved observational visits to other high schools with IB programs already in place. Mr. Penland, along with other GHS administrators and numerous faculty members, visited no less than eight high schools, mostly in Virginia, but also some in North and South Carolina as well as in a few other states. Official IB Workshops were also attended by much of the faculty. 

    By early 1995 all the hard work on the part of the faculty and administration paid off, and it was formally announced that Grimsley had been accepted for the IB program. "The International Baccalaureate (I.B.) program is the most prestigious [and] rigorous program available. It's the only internationally recognized academic program in the world. We can become not only one of the top school systems in North Carolina, but also in the nation and the world!" enthusiastically spoke Mr. Penland upon getting the news that Grimsley had been approved as one of the I.B. schools in the United States for the school year 1995-1996.  [1996 Whirligig, p. 277] Grimsley's program was the first in Guilford County and only the fourth in North Carolina.

    The International Baccalaureate program has been an unqualified success at Grimsley. The growth of IB at GHS has been steady, increasing almost every year. During that first year, 10 juniors enrolled in the Diploma Course. [There were no seniors that first year as the program lasts for two years.] Grimsley's first IB class graduated in the spring of 1997 with seven students earning the IB diploma. Moving forward to the spring of 2015, the 19th class, 55 students earned the IB diploma. Through 2015, a total of 492 GHS seniors have earned the IB diploma. In the fall of 2016, the 20th class, the projection is that a record number of 82 diploma candidates will take their final exams. Individual IB courses are open to all students at GHS. As of the current school year, approximately 450 students are participating in at least one IB course, which is about 25% of the student body. It is also noteworthy that the diploma candidates in first 19 IB classes earned over $49 million in scholarship monies to apply toward continuing their education at the college of their choice.

    To put our IB program into both a global and local perspective, consider these figures: As of August 2015, there are 4267 schools in over 150 countries around the world that offer at least one of the four IB Programs. 1676 of these schools are located in the United States and 62 of those are in North Carolina. To narrow the focus a bit more, 876 high schools within the United States offer the Diploma Program which we have at GHS. Thirty-two of those schools are in North Carolina and four of them are in the Guilford County Schools.


    GHS IB Faculty Coordinators:

    Dr. Steven Kee: 1994-2000

    Ms. Ashly Newton Morrison: 2000-2005

    Mr. Bud Harrelson: 2005-2007

    Ms. Dibrelle Tourret:  2007-2011

    Ms. Christina Adams Purgason: 2011-2015

    Ms. Karyn Collie Dickerson: 2015-2019

    Mr. Ben Barnard 2019 - present