By Louis Mayeux

Douglas Frutiger
Douglas Frutiger

Douglas Frutiger loves interacting with former students on Facebook.

“It’s really neat keeping up with the kids,” Frutiger said about the North Atlanta High School International Baccalaureate graduates Facebook page. “It goes on and on with all of the marvelous things they’re doing. They’re all around the world, doing marvelous things.”

Facebook is a fitting symbol of Frutiger’s belief in preparing students for the internationally linked world of the 21st century.

“The world has changed,” he said, sitting in his North Atlanta office recently. “Now our kids are going to grow up and will work throughout the world and travel throughout the world, and they’re going to have to know how to get along with a great number of people.”

After 40 years with the Atlanta Public Schools and 26 in the APS’ International Baccalaureate program at Buckhead’s North Fulton and North Atlanta high schools, Frutiger recently announced his retirement as director of North Atlanta’s pioneering IB diploma program, an internationally recognized diploma program designed to give students global awareness.

The school also enters a new era. Recently, APS announced that a new Buckhead high school will be built and that North Atlanta’s building on Northside Drive will be converted into a middle school.

A reorganized International Baccalaureate program will be under the direction of John J. Denine, assistant principal and dean of academics. He will hold the title of Academy Leader, combining the dean’s and the IB director’s duties.

“I’ll be like the principal of a small high school within the bigger school,” Denine said. The reorganized program will have its own floor and a more integrated teachers’ staff, he said.

Frutiger said that with the changes, he thought it was a good time to move on. “New blood, new ideas, and that’s good,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for me to try something different.”

A strong advocate for the IB philosophy, Frutiger started with the Geneva-based organization in 1984 when he came to North Fulton High’s IB program as a social studies and history teacher.

“When we started, it was the only IB school in the Southeast,” Frutiger says about North Fulton’s program, which moved to North Atlanta when North Fulton and Northside High merged in 1990. Frutiger took over as director of the progam in 1996.

Now, 40 high schools in Georgia have the IB program, including Riverwood in Sandy Springs and Buckhead’s Atlanta International School, which took over North Fulton’s historic building in the Garden Hills area.

Frutiger, who cites the program’s emphasis on analytical and interpretive skills and student-teacher interaction, is particularly proud that Sutton Middle School and all six APS elementary schools that feed into Sutton now have the IB program.

“The students can take responsibility for their own educations,” Frutiger said.

The IB program at North Atlanta emphasizes the humanities with an international outlook, with higher-level courses in history, literature, foreign language and social studies. The program has been expanded so that students in North Atlanta’s art, music and theater and business-management programs can also take the IB diploma exams.

Frutiger said that North Atlanta IB students leave well-prepared for college work, particularly writing. Having an IB diploma also aids college acceptance, he said, citing an Emory University report that Emory accepts 42 percent of all students who apply but 88 percent of applicants with IB diplomas.

Frutiger said he’s applied for a couple of part-time college teaching jobs and plans to devote more time to his woodworking hobby. “I’d love to get into something completely different,” he said.

Meanwhile, he’ll step aside June 30, after assisting with planning for the program’s new direction.

“I’ll miss the people, the camaraderie, and especially the kids,” he said. “It makes you young, to be around kids all of the time.”