Representatives from Savannah Technical College, Effingham County schools and Savannah-Chatham schools announced the receipt of a grant to operate Gateway to College program in both counties.
Dr. C.B. Rathburn, president of Savannah Technical College, said this is a program the college and school systems have been working for a year and a half to create.
“This program is designed to do one focused thing,” he said. “That is to make sure that those individuals who are either in the process of dropping out of high school, or have chosen to leave high school, and have the capability to go on have the resources and have the kind of educational model for success.”
Reg Hendricks, STC executive vice president, said the program will allow the students to receive their high school diploma, and earn college credit.
“We plan to begin offering classes in fall of 2008,” Hendricks said.
He said that seems like a long way off, but there is a lot to be done before students begin classes.
The classes offered in fall 2008 will be at the Savannah campus. The Effingham campus will begin offering classes in fall 2009.
“An important part of what we’re going to do between now and when we first accept students is to get a lot more training from the Portland folks,” Hendricks said.
The national model for the program is based out of Portland, Ore., at Portland Community College.
“The students will be Savannah Technical College students, we will work very closely with the both the Chatham County system and the Effingham County system to align our training with high school graduation requirements,” Hendricks said. “When a student completes, they will have their high school diploma, and they’ll have college credits toward a certificate or diploma from us.”
Rathburn clarified that the Gateway to College charter school is a different school than the Career Academy in Effingham, even though both schools will be partnerships with the school system and the college.
Gregg Arnsdorff, Effingham County schools assistant superintendent for instruction and technology, said the system is excited about the partnership with Chatham schools and Savannah Technical College.
“Our board of education is very committed to offering as many opportunities for students to be successful as possible in their life goals,” he said. “They believe that we need to offer a full compliment of opportunities for students, and we believe the Gateway to College program is one of those.”
Arnsdorff said the other opportunity for students is the Career Academy, which will provide complementary opportunities for students in the county.
“This is groundbreaking for our local board of education. This is the first charter school that will operate in Effingham County followed closely by the Career Academy that will be also starting up,” he said. “It’s very important for the economic development of our community that we have as many opportunities for our students to gain the skills necessary to be productive citizens.”
Arnsdorff said he “applauded” Hendricks’ work in writing the charter, and Rathburn’s leadership during the process.
Marcia Clanton, executive director of special programs for the Chatham school system, said one of the most exciting aspects is the partnership to better the opportunities for students in the community. Clanton said the student population is a difficult population to serve, but they know it can be done based on the success of the national model.
“We have an issue in our region with dropout, in our entire nation, but it’s not any different here in the Coastal Empire,” she said.
Clanton said the seamless nature of the program from high school work to college work will help students complete the program.
“I certainly do not think this will not be the last partnership opportunity with this group of people here because we’re all committed to research to give options and opportunities to our students,” she said.
The start-up grant is made possible through funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.