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CCHS eyes Gates Foundation grant to help students

Grant would help transform high school into 'smaller learning community'
Since its formation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has poured more than $2 billion into education.
   Crook County High School wants a piece of that dough.
   "Their goal is to restructure the high school into a learning community of less than 400 students. What they hope to do is increase the graduation rate and increase the opportunity for all students to go to a post secondary educational experience," explained CCHS Principal Rick Knode.
   According to the Gates Foundation website, large schools are "impersonal" because some are overcrowded, isolated, and offer "disconnected courses with little guidance."
   Knode and three other high school staff members will be applying for a grant from the Gates Foundation that would supply the school with $500,000 a year for four years, an amount that would make a tremendous difference at the high school.
   Before the school officials jumped into the grant application, Knode approached the Crook County School Board on Dec. 13, seeking approval to start the application process.
   "It's 22 pages with five essay questions," Knode said.
   The four school board members present agreed that the high school staff members should proceed with the grant application.
   Knode, Tim Zook and David Mascall, CCHS teachers, and Ann Kasberger, CCHS counselor, recently attended a presentation about the Gates Foundation.
   "We were the only rural school in attendance," Knode said.
   According to Knode, about eight schools in Oregon were awarded grant money last year and are currently starting the process to go small.
   Lebanon High School is one of the eight schools attempting to create a small environment for students. This school year, LHS separated the school's 1400 students into four "learning academies."
   The goal of the learning academies is to keep a graduating class together for their four-years at the school, with the same "core" teachers.
   However, the school has run into some scheduling problems as well as students who feel they are career-tracked their freshman year.
   Knode believes that during the first half of the two-year grant, with members from the Gates Foundation on hand, problems and kinks can be worked out.
   "The grant comes in two parts. There is a two-year planning component, where we take time to look at the school and making changes," Knode said.
   "After the two years of planning time, there is two years of implementation. Through that, members of the Gates Foundation help plan for change and plan for the process," he continued.
   Dennis Kostelecky, CCSD curriculum coordinator, and former CCSD Superintendent Gary Peterson brought the Gates Foundation to Knode's attention last year.
   "Being new, I didn't want to take that challenge at that time," Knode explained.
   A year later, Knode, Zook, Kasberger, and Mascall are ready to tackle the lengthy grant application. The document is due Feb. 21.
   Further information on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation can be accessed online at www.gatesfoundation.org.