OGDEN -- Staff meetings at Ogden High School don't always spark spontaneous standing ovations.
But that's what happened Wednesday morning, when Heather Gerrard got an email saying the school had been granted authorization to be an International Baccalaureate school and offer IB diplomas.
"We've been working for the past two years at Ogden High, sending teachers to training, buying appropriate materials for the library and science lab and all the classrooms, developing curriculum for all the classes," said Gerrard, the school's International Baccalaureate coordinator. "When I got the message in the middle of the faculty meeting, I interrupted, and everybody jumped up. The faculty as a whole is very excited."
The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is a two-year program for high school juniors and seniors that offers rigorous course work that turns out graduates highly prepared for university study. Some IB graduates can get credit for as much as two years of college course work, depending on their test scores and the policies of the universities they go on to attend.
IB program students are required to take a second language and to study world culture rather than just American culture.
"The International Baccalaureate Programme is a rigorous university-prep curriculum that is culturally sensitive," said Ogden High Principal Stacey Briggs. "It is well-respected around the world, and students who complete it are well-prepared to go to university and be very successful. They are very attractive for scholarships and other university opportunities. They learn through a kind of global lens that strengthens their educational experience."
Ogden High joins a short list of Utah high schools offering the diploma program. West High, in Salt Lake City, launched Utah's first I.B. program in 1984. Other authorized high schools are Bountiful, Clearfield, Skyline and Provo. Last spring, more than 120 Utah students graduated with I.B. diplomas.
In addition, Syracuse Junior High and Draper's Channing Hall Elementary have I.B. study programs geared for younger scholars.
Before becoming Ogden High's principal this school year, Briggs was the Provo High assistant principal who administrated that school's I.B. program.
"Students there had some great experiences," Briggs said. "The I.B. program also has the effect of improving instruction in the whole school, which is one of the big goals at Ogden High. We want the positive effects from having the I.B. program to have a positive impact on all our students."
Briggs said about 40 Ogden High sophomores have signed up for the I.B. program, with classes to begin in the fall. More students are welcome, she said, even sophomores who would like to transfer from other schools.
Donna Corby, Ogden School District spokeswoman, said the district has taken steps to strengthen science and other course work in feeder schools so students arrive at Ogden High more prepared to participate in the I.B. program, should they so choose.
"It's a happy day for Ogden High and the whole Ogden School District," Corby said.
Gerrard said Ogden High went through a long application process, which included requirements that teachers take special training and prove they could teach at the required level. The school had to prove it had community support, and the financial backing required to upgrade various materials and facilities.
Representatives from one of three worldwide International Baccalaureate offices spent two days on-site in November, conducting interviews with teachers, administrators, district officials, students and parents.