Sometimes the timing for things seems to be just right. That may be the case for a proposed magnet high school in Bend focused on entrepreneurship and innovation, aiming to open in the Fall 2018.

The concept is being developed jointly by Bend business leaders, local nonprofits Looking Forward and Opportunity Knocks, the High Desert Education Service District and the Bend-La Pine School District.

“What we’re excited about is that this is a partnership with our larger business community, and we’re really engaging with them in the design and concept of the school,” Jay Mathisen, deputy superintendent of Bend-La Pine Schools, said this morning.

Back to that timing. Jay says that the district was already in the process of considering how to accommodate its growing student body at the high school level. At the same time, Preston Callicott, Five Talent CEO (and resident community doer) and the folks at Looking Forward (a whole group of doers) had been discussing the potential for an innovation and entrepreneurship-themed high school.

So they all recently met in Five Talent’s conference room. They had to move out the table to make room for everyone there. Then instead of hurdles and differing opinions and approaches, the group discovered that they mostly agreed. And that they wanted to move forward with the idea.

“We were all shocked. Everyone said ‘yes, let’s do this,’” says Preston, who is leading the steering committee on the business side. The high school is currently in the concept and design phase. The BLP school district is also pursuing a second magnet high school modeled after the REALMs middle School.

Jay says it’s all happening, noting that “there aren’t huge roadblocks in terms of red tape and bureaucracy. We just have to have a shift in mindset around what high school looks like.”

He adds that the district’s board of directors are excited about the concept as well. The group is making quick progress. Business and education leaders, including Preston, Jay and Anna Higgins, the High Desert ESD director of innovation, are visiting similarly themed high schools this week including High Tech High in San Diego and RiverPoint Academy in Spokane.

Of course, many details are still being working out, including the high school’s location and curriculum. But broadly, Callicott says the hope is for a school that teaches and fosters some of the skills that people associate with entrepreneurs, from innovative thinking to calculated risk taking.

“We want to develop leaders who can start companies, run companies, and see business opportunities, and teach students all those non-repetitive tasks that are more innovative and creative,” says Preston. Current ideas for the school include incorporating discussion circles, student-led projects, integration with local businesses and internships.

The funding would likely come from traditional sources, such as state education funds, as well as some fundraising. Meanwhile, the excitement from all involved is palpable and focused on providing Central Oregon students with even more innovative options for their education.

“Why can’t the fifth largest school district in Oregon reimagine high school for kids?” Jay says. “We’re taking (all the great programs) we have a step further, and building something that really thinks outside the box.”

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley