Gates gives $8 million to U center

Erin Ghere

The University’s Center for School Change received $8 million from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a barrage of donations totaling $56 million to encourage smaller schools around the country.
The center, which is part of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, was informed of the contribution last week, but details were not made public until this week in a series of press conferences.
Sue Gens, director of external relations at the Humphrey Center, said the funding will be used to target two urban school districts, St. Paul and Cincinnati, and one suburban district, West Clermont, a suburb of Cincinnati.
The center will take large high schools in those areas and break them into smaller, more focused schools within the same building.
“A building doesn’t have to equal a school,” said Joe Nathan, the center’s founder and director.
The purpose of breaking down large schools is to produce a significantly higher number of high school graduates with strong academic skills, excellent preparation and a clear picture of their next step in life.
The focused schools might go into greater depth in one area or allow students to do most of their learning in the community, he added.
The Center for School Change has been at the University for 10 years, Nathan said. It has focused on three purposes: developing grants for new or improved public schools that are move effective, research and reports and working with state and national legislators.
Nathan said he was delighted to hear of the donation and is humbled because what lies ahead is a huge task, but honored because the Gates foundation has so much faith in St. Paul and the University.
The funding is an “expression from a huge foundation that they’re interested … in Minnesota,” he said.
In addition to the Center for School Change, the Gates foundation gave funding to eight school districts, six school networks and one other university-based support center. EdVisions, a charter public school in Henderson, Minn., also received $4.4 million from the Gates foundation.

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