Rob and Terry Ryan donate $100,000 to equip science classrooms in Hamilton, Montana
|November 21, 2005||View for printing|
Rob Ryan detailed his dream in front of a small group of education officials at a press conference last week: the Bitterroot Valley becoming a hotbed of entrepreneurs and science-based industry.
It's not that far fetched, Ryan opined, noting the area's proximity to the University of Montana, the federal biological research at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, and pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline's research and manufacturing plant, formerly run by Corixa Corporation.
Ryan, a semi-retired multi-millionaire, now mentors entrepreneurs from his large ranch just south of Hamilton. He said more must be done to equip young Bitterroot students in the classroom so they can be tomorrow's leaders.
Ryan, 57, and his wife, Terry Ryan, 58, weren't just talking about helping young minds, they donated money toward the cause - a lot of money.
Ryan, whose background is in science and technology, was the founder and former CEO of the networking equipment company Ascend Communications. He retired at 46 and started Entrepreneur America http://entrepreneur-america.com/ with his wife. He said he has helped start about 25 companies around the U.S. in the last few years.
One of those companies is in Montana. RightNow Technology http://www.rightnow.com/ was started in Bozeman in 1997.
by PERRY PEARSON - Ravalli Republic
Rob and Terry Ryan found STARS, "Science & Technology At ouR Schools". Donate dream classrooms in biology, chemistry and physics to the Hamilton, Montana School District http://www.matr.net/article-16913.html
Link school funding to performance
SUMMARY: It's not what we spend but what we buy that matters in education.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda McCulloch was among several leading educators last week opposing the adoption of writing proficiency standards for students entering Montana's universities and colleges. Requiring high school graduates to demonstrate at least minimal ability to employ the written word as part of college placement would be an obstacle to too many students seeking higher education, McCulloch and other educators argued. That's an extraordinary confession volunteered by the head of Montana's public elementary and secondary education system. What she's saying is that too many students graduate from high school without the ability to write. How ironic to hear public school officials implore the state Board of Regents to ensure high school graduates access to education for which the public schools failed to prepare them.
But the real noteworthiness of this argument emerges when you juxtapose it with the bigger headline-grabbing education issue of late: Educators' demands for a massive increase in state school spending. Missoula County Public Schools last week joined the group demanding an additional $300 million a year for schools, a proposal put forth by a coalition consisting of school districts and teacher unions.
A careful reading of that group's cash-infusion proposal reveals no suggestion, much less promise, that the additional money would produce measurable gains in student achievement - least of all improving high school graduate writing proficiency to levels sufficient for legitimate admission to college. The entire focus of the funding plan is to infuse school budgets with money. It's all about what you should spend, not what your money might buy.
If abundance of tax dollars were directly linked to student achievement, perhaps additional funding could help - assuming the money is spent in the right ways in the right places. But the entire spend-more argument revolves around how much money the education lobby would like to have, not what it's likely to achieve with the money. Without linking pay and funding to performance, there's no reason to believe additional money will produce better results. Indeed, putting another $300 million on the table before some of the state's strongest unions and some of its weakest managers (school boards) could quite easily benefit the providers of education without any assurance of benefits for children. Will there be pay raises in store for those teachers whose students leave high school without the ability to write the papers their college professors assign them? How would that improve education?
Without solid performance and accountability measures, there's nothing but good intentions and hope that more money will result in better education. Educators are demanding more money. Montanans ought to be demanding better results. The two must be explicitly linked.
I wanted to take the liberty of posting a letter to the editor that appeared in the Ravalli Republic:
To the editor,
I was truly thrilled to read about the extraordinary contribution that Rob and Terry Ryan have made to science education in the Bitterroot Valley with their “Dream Classroom” contest. The science teachers at Hamilton High School presented to the Ryans a winning proposal that will fund state-of-the-art science classrooms. This will make it possible for generations of high school students in Hamilton to study life and physical sciences with the latest equipment and technology. The knowledge and the skills the students acquire will equip them well to pursue advanced opportunities and become leaders in the sciences. Mr Ryan correctly observes that “more must be done to equip young Bitterroot students in the classroom so they can be tomorrow’s leaders.” This is the proper focus of education and all of our local schools should adhere to it. Not to focus on the classroom shortchanges our kids and ultimately our communities.
As Mr Ryan noted, there is a rich tradition of research and technology in the Bitterroot Valley, including the Rocky Mountain Labs and the private lab that is now part of GlaxoSmithKline. For the past several decades, I have had the distinct pleasure of mentoring students from all our valley high schools in science programs. They have been uniformly top-notch and intellectually competitive with students from anywhere in the country. Now some of these students will have lab facilities commensurate with their talents. We can hope that some of them will eventually staff the outstanding research facilities in our area.
Therefore, I would like to applaud the Ryans for their vision and for their faith in the young people of today. Rob Ryan has a reputation as a shrewd investor. I am confident that this new investment is equally shrewd and will also pay substantial dividends.
Marshall E. Bloom, M.D.
Associate Director for Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Division of Intramural Research
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Institutes of Health
Rocky Mountain Laboratories
903 South 4th Street
Hamilton, MT 59840
This is fabulous! Thank you. The private sector needs to become a lead partner in education in Montana. This is a great model for other communities.
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