ONTARIO —The Four Rivers Community School and Eastern Oregon University solidified their long-standing partnership Tuesday when officials from each signed a memorandum of understanding for services between the two institutions.

The memorandum signing took place prior to EOU President Bob Davies’ annual state of the college presentation, at Mackey’s in Ontario.

The memorandum of understanding solidifies the two-year partnership the two education institutions maintain regarding the FRCS Collaborative Center for Teaching and Learning, Chelle Robins, FRCS executive director, said.

FRCS hosts the center for teaching and learning, Robins said, which allows EOU’s pre-service teachers to do practicum and teaching in the classrooms under the supervision of FRCS teachers.

“It’s a great advantage for them to be immersed in a working school where they can get classroom experience,” Robins said.

FRCS educators with masters degrees, including Robins, also teach some of the course work on the campus and act as adjunct faculty at EOU, she said. EOU provides an on-site instructional coach, Dr. Jan Dinsmore, who not only helps the pre-service teachers but also, at the request of FRCS teachers, and also helps them set goals, coordinate additional educational opportunities for those who are working toward their master’s degree and comes into classrooms and observes and makes suggestions.

“So it feels really safe for them,” Robins said, adding Dinsmore’s presence is not a formal evaluation and it allows the teachers to gain feedback on new things they are trying.

She said they have been so successful, a grant obtained allowed the two institutions to develop a less formal model that can be used for school districts closer to EOU.

Robins said no formal agreement was put in place until now because FRCS and EOU wanted to have the process run smoothly first.

“I think we’ve been able to work out all these pieces without that partnership in place,” Robins said, adding Tuesday night’s signing just formalized the working relationship.

Davies said the agreement was a great extension of the partnership.

Davies said the experiment FRCS and EOU began a couple of years ago has really paid off because the teaching and learning center really benefits EOU’s pre-service teachers by giving them hands-on experience and access to great technology.

“It’s a living lab, and not often do you have the opportunity to do this on an on-going, continuing basis,” Davies said.

He said it also allows the college to see what is working and what isn’t in the classroom and provides a model for working with other school districts. FRCS, he said, was the ideal partner for the program.

“Here’s a school that wants to be on the cutting edge, not just wait and see what happens,” he said.

Davies said the partnership also allows EOU to impress upon students the possibility of furthering their education past high school and encouraging them to do so.

Because the school focuses on English/Spanish immersion, FRCS students who graduate having passed a college level experience test leave with credits on their transcripts for EOU. The college also provides scholarship support to attend EOU for FRCS graduates, according to the agreement.

Jessica Keller is the news editor at the Argus Observer. She can be reached at (541) 823-4822 or by email, jessicak@argusobserver.com. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com

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