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Schools hope to open Gateway for dropouts
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The influence of one of the world’s richest men could reach to potential Effingham County dropouts.

Effingham Board of Education members approved a charter school application for the Gateway to College, a proposed partnership with Savannah Technical College that will try to get dropouts back into school and into careers.

Savannah Technical College will receive start-up funding from Portland (Ore.) Community College for the Effingham Gateway to College Academy. STC is partnering with Effingham County schools and the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System for the Gateway to College program, which is intended to get dropouts back into school.

“I believe this board is dedicated to improving our dropout rate,” Chairwoman Vera Jones said.

STC President Dr. Bix Rathburn said they have received word they will receive $325,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the charitable organization established by the Microsoft co-founder, and its Early College High School Initiative.

“This goes right at the heart of the problem of a lot of districts — what do I do with the kid who has no option left,” Rathburn said.

The program will not take away resources from the school system, he said. Every student who goes through the program will count as a high school graduate.

“And they get to move forward with their career,” Rathburn said.

In the program, students can complete their high school requirements while earning credits toward a college degree, a diploma or a technical certificate.

“It’s another great program,” Superintendent Randy Shearouse said. “There are certain kids who need something else. We’re giving kids a lot of chances to succeed, and that’s what we’re all about.”

The Effingham Gateway to College Academy is slated to open in fall 2008. The Gateway to College program started at Portland Community College in 2000.

The Gates Foundation became involved in 2003 and the program expanded to its first four following sites in 2004. 

There are 18 colleges and 59 school systems in 12 states involved in Gateway to College. Two programs are charter schools, including Georgia Perimeter College’s Gateway to College Academy.

Effingham Gateway to College Academy board of directors
Two members of the STC faculty
Two members of the EGCTA faculty
Two parents of students
Chief academic officer of Effingham school system
Superintendent of Effingham schools (or designee)
Two community representatives
Business representative