Rural Schools Partnership Hosts Rendezvous in Thomasville

More than 125 Ozarks educators and grant and scholarship recipients will gather in Thomasville, Mo.,  on Thursday, May 6, for the 2010 Rural Education Rendezvous, which will include sessions with two national rural schools experts and the U.S. Department of Education’s leader in rural outreach.

The Rural Schools Partnership conference  will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Thomasville Community Center in Oregon County. Registration reached capacity on Monday, May 3.

Dr. Doris Williams, executive director of the Rural School and Community Trust, will discuss the central theme of the conference – “The Basic Tenets of Place-Based Education.” Joining Dr. Williams will be Senior Fellow and President Emeritus Rachel Tompkins, who will speak on “Schools in a Resurgent Heartland” from the national nonprofit’s perspective of fostering the relationship between good schools and thriving communities. In addition, John White, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach, will discuss U.S. Department of Education goals for rural schools.

During the conference luncheon, the inaugural class of the Ozarks Teachers’ Corps will be recognized. These 18 Ozarks college students will receive annual scholarships of $4,000 each: In return they will commit to teaching in their respective home communities for three years after graduation; serve as teacher-interns in small schools; and explore rural education issues as part of their studies. This program is made possible by the Chesley and Flora Lea Wallis Scholarship Fund, a $1.7 million Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ charitable fund.

Also being recognized at Thursday’s conference will be the 11 projects selected for the $175,000 inaugural Place-Based Education Grants Program. Representatives from each of the projects will attend a workshop with Jereann King Johnson from the Rural School and Community Trust designed to help them succeed in developing and implementing their placed-based projects. Funding for these grants was made possible by a partnership between Commerce Trust’s Coover Foundation and the CFO Stewardship Ozarks Initiative.

Rebecca Grisham, librarian for the Gainesville School District, will be recognized as a “Fund for Teachers Fellow”, which carries a $3,600 scholarship to study the life and homes of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the beloved “Little House on the Prairie” books written at her Rocky Ridge Farm home near Mansfield. Grisham was one of just 25 educators selected nationwide to receive a fellowship from the Fund for Teachers and the Rural School and Community Trust.

Thomasville was selected as the site of this year’s conference because its setting along the Eleven Point River and its community center, the refurbished high school built as a 1930s W.P.A. project, captures the philosophy of the Rural Schools Partnership’s commitment to place-based education. It is located about  12 miles northwest of Alton in Oregon County.

The Rural Schools Partnership and the CFO expresses appreciation to CFO Board Member Dusty Shaw and his family for hosting the conference, which is adjacent to the Eleven Point Ranch Mr. Shaw’s parents homesteaded when they decided to settle in Thomasville in the early ‘30s.

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