Gates grant will bring $675,000 to Beamer


Staff writer

The Federal Way School District has received two grants this year from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Both Todd Beamer High School and the Information Technology Student Development Institute will benefit from grants in the next few years.

Todd Beamer High School — scheduled to open this fall — was awarded a three-year grant of $675,000 May 22.

According to Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, "Our work has demonstrated that all good schools possess similar qualities — a personalized learning environment, a shared culture of respect and responsibility and high expectations for all students. These grants represent our support of local educational leaders who are committed to creative innovative educational models that embrace these critical principles.”

Vander Ark, who in the 1990s served as superintendent of the Federal Way school district, has had first-hand experience with the Federal Way Public Schools.

Marie Groark, spokeswoman for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that the design for Todd Beamer High School demonstrated "the quality of leadership the Gates Foundation seeks in schools."

"Todd Beamer High School is committed to helping all students achieve," Groark said. One of the goals of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is to "help to re-design high schools to do a better job to support our kids and prepare for college," she said.

According to Carol Eberhart, principal of Todd Beamer High School, this leadership comes in the form of small class sizes and the formation of three autonomous academies.

One of the academies consists of math, science, health and fitness. The second academy is made up of humanities and the arts. The third academy is made up of Puget Sound business and industry.

The foundation also considered financial need when it came to deciding which schools would receive a grant. In the grant proposal, Todd Beamer High School demonstrated financial need necessary to operate successfully, Groark said.

Eberhart said the grant will help to offset the start-up costs for running the school. Most of the grant money will be used for curriculum development and staff development at the school. The money will be used to purchase books and multimedia and to "bring in experts in instructional strategies that enhance student learning and giving people time to develop curriculums for our new designs," Eberhart said. A small portion of the money will be spent on technology: each academy will receive nine computers.

Another program that will benefit from the Gates Foundation is the Information Technology Student Development Institute, a joint project of Highline Community College, the Federal Way school district and the University of Washington Tacoma. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2004, the institute will enroll 180 students — 90 high school juniors and 90 high school seniors — with the goal of giving students an education in high technology.

Jeff Wagnitz, dean of instruction at Highline Community College, said the institute will aim to provide both a high school diploma and an associates degree to graduating seniors who complete the program. Students will be able to transfer their credits to the University of Washington Tacoma's Information Technology Institute.

"The idea for the project and the application itself are both about 2 years old," Wagnitz said. The grant money — $319,450 — will be used to help offset start-up costs for the program, he said.

There are several stipulations for schools that receive a grant from the Foundation:

• Schools must provide a budget match of at least 20 percent of the grant. Groark said the reason is "to ensure that there is community support for the grant as well."

• Schools must follow their grant agreement during the lifetime of the grant. When a school applies for a grant from the foundation, it must submit a proposal outlining how the grant money will be used. The school must follow the outline — this requirement is in the grant agreement.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565,

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