SPERRY, Okla. (AP) — The stand-in parents of a Vietnamese exchange student say they’re worried her $8,000-a-year college scholarship could be endangered if she’s unable to get a high school diploma because of questions about graduation requirements.
Oanh Kim Pham — known as “Annie” to friends and her exchange family — was awarded the scholarship to attend Oklahoma State University and wants to study biology, said Perry Newman, whose family is the teenager’s host during her stay in the United States. The failure to get a diploma could affect the amount of Annie’s scholarship, Newman said.
The 18-year-old has better than a straight-A grade point average, thanks to advanced placement classes, and scored a 25 on her ACT, said Newman of Sperry.
But Assistant Superintendent Brian Beagles said he never promised the teenager that she could graduate. Beagles said Annie’s Sperry transcript had been inappropriately completed by an official, giving full credits for the ninth, 10th and 11th grades. He said that apparently led the Newmans to assume she could graduate.
The issue could be decided at a school board meeting in May. Graduation is scheduled May 22.
State law says public schools can waive specific graduation requirements for out-of-state students who enter the district after their junior year. Beagles said officials of the state Department of Education and the Oklahoma State School Boards Association told him the “out-of-state” reference should not be interpreted as “out-of-country.”
Newman had Annie’s Vietnam school transcript evaluated by World Education Services of New York, which concluded she had completed the U.S. equivalent of 11 years of elementary and secondary education.
“She is a very conscientious student, and she likes her world to be in good order,” Newman said. “She cannot stand to have this decision not made and be in flux. Her worst fear is that they are not going to let her graduate and she won’t be able to achieve her life’s goal of going to a U.S. university.”
Jeff Mills, the executive director of the State School Boards Association, said he knew of cases in which foreign exchange students have been allowed to graduate. Otherwise, he said, the “foreign exchange program wouldn’t be very successful.”
However, some Oklahoma districts, including Union, Jenks and Broken Arrow, prohibit foreign exchange students from graduating, records show.
Sperry doesn’t have a policy. Sperry students need 28 credits to graduate, and the most a student can earn in a year is eight, Beagles said.
“If (foreign-exchange) students have graduated in the past, they should not have,” Beagles said. “I would just say that it would have been an error on the part of the school.”