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Press Release

Barbara Laskin

Macalester Center for School Change receives $2 million grant from Cargill to help improve charter public schools

January 18, 2010– St. Paul, Minn.– A new $2 million Cargill Foundation grant to the Center for School Change at Macalester College aims to significantly improve the academic and operational performance of Minneapolis-area charter public schools that serve a high percentage of students from low income families.

The grant recognizes that while many charter schools serving these students are “beating the odds” by bringing a majority of their students to proficiency, at too many district and charter schools serving the same population less than 50 percent of students are proficient in reading and math. The Center for School Change at Macalester College and LarsonAllen, will work in partnership on the charter school project.

To increase performance at these schools, the grant focuses on achieving explicit, challenging goals in two areas: increasing academic performance and family involvement, and improving financial and operational management. Schools that achieve these goals will receive explicit financial rewards. Support will include a mentor program for school leaders modeled after a Center for School Change leader training program that has received national attention, and development of school-based teams of teachers, parents and community members focused on results.

“Cargill’s continued success depends on the growth and health of the communities where we live and work. This new program to improve the performance of charter schools is just one of the ways we are working in partnership with local organizations to improve educational outcomes for socio-economically disadvantaged children," said Mark Murphy, Cargill assistant vice president of corporate affairs and executive director of The Cargill Foundation.

“It’s our hope that we can give public charter school leaders the skills and resources they need to improve overall success and replicate that success in other public schools, both charter and noncharter,” said Macalester College President Brian Rosenberg. “The Cargill Foundation’s support of this important work is critical and we are grateful for their vision and foresight.”

The partnership between the Center for School Change and LarsonAllen is unique, drawing on the expertise of each organization to improve school performance. The Center for School Change has successfully implemented programs to improve academic achievement and leadership at public charter schools, while LarsonAllen brings expertise in organizational development, governance and fiscal management.

Change and LarsonAllen, leaders there suggested they work together to develop a single proposal.

Joe Nathan, Center for School Change director recalls, “We spent several months discussing the idea and learned that we had different—but complementary—expertise. By working together, we can accomplish more. We will bring that same spirit to the schools. We will help them identify strengths and areas needing improvement. Then we will help retrain faculty, board members and staff to set clear, focused goals. Finally, we will reward schools that achieve their goals.”

Ben Aase of LarsonAllen, who will lead that organization’s piece of this project says, “We believe that the time is right to make a positive impact in our public charter schools. Recent legislative changes and the maturity of the charter school movement in Minnesota make this a great opportunity for schools to bolster their existing programs and to demonstrate the kind of results that everyone wants to see for Minnesota’s kids.”

The work will take place over the next three years. Guidelines for participation will be issued by April 15, 2010, and schools will be selected by mid-May. Intensive work with the schools will begin in summer, 2010. Results will be shared with the broader community.

About Cargill Community Giving
Cargill gives back to communities by contributing 2 percent of its global consolidated pre-tax earnings (based on a three-year trailing average). Cargill donated $58.2 million in 50 countries during its 2009 fiscal year. Cargill provides support to organizations, projects and programs that fall in three focus areas: nutrition and health; education; and environmental stewardship. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area the Cargill Foundation primarily invests in organizations and programs that demonstrate leadership and effectiveness in educating socio-economically disadvantaged children and eliminating barriers to their educational success.

About Cargill
Cargill is an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. Founded in 1865, the privately held company employs 159,000 people in 68 countries. Cargill helps customers succeed through collaboration and innovation, and is committed to applying its global knowledge and experience to help meet economic, environmental and social challenges wherever we do business. For more information, visit

About LarsonAllen
LarsonAllen LLP is a professional service firm that provides assurance, accounting, tax, consulting, and advisory services to organizations and individuals managing business ventures and finance. Founded in 1953, LarsonAllen’s certified public accountants, consultants, and advisors are dedicated to providing quality results to clients. LarsonAllen has 1,400 people and $225 million in annual revenues. Offices are located in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington DC, and Wisconsin. LarsonAllen is an independent member of Nexia International, a top 10 worldwide network of independent accounting and consulting firms. Founded in 1971, Nexia provides a global network of independent auditors, business advisors, and consultants.

About Macalester College
Macalester College, founded in 1874, is a national liberal arts college with a full-time enrollment of 1,958 students. Macalester is nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to academic excellence, internationalism, multiculturalism and civic engagement. The Center for School Change has been located at Macalester since January 2010.

Susan Eich, Cargill, (952) 742-6245
Joe Nathan, Center for School Change, (651) 696-6848
Ben Aase, LarsonAllen, (612) 397-3069