In a seventh-grade humanities classroom, kids dressed in their finest spent a few minutes arm wrestling before lining up to attend a building dedication at Sage Ridge School last week.
“We’re trying to blow off as much steam as possible before we have to go in and sit quietly,” said Ryan Williams, who teaches the class, a combination of English and social studies, at the area’s only non-sectarian, independent middle and high school.
The school has about 124 students enrolled in grades six through 11. The youths—guys in dress slacks, jackets and ties; girls in skirts, blouses and blazers—formed a spiffy line as teachers checked them over for untucked shirts and the like.
The kids I talked to say they love the school for its small classes and challenging curriculum. Sage Ridge students do much of their work on laptops carried from class to class. And this year, the school’s computer network went wireless—an upgrade most local businesses would envy.
It’s that kind of technology that makes Sage Ridge School one of the selling points for those pitching Reno as a high-tech haven for businesses. In fact, supporters from the business and technology community attended Friday’s dedication of a building in honor of education maven Mary Naomi Webster. Webster’s son, Ranson Webster, a donor to the school, was on hand for the dedication. Ranson Webster, chairman of the board for the William Harrah Foundation, the National Automobile Museum and the Nevada Policy Research Institute, is the founder of Computing Resources Inc., which completed a $200 million merger with the computer software maker Intuit in 1999.
Also in attendance was Richard Bostdorff, chairman of the Economic Development Authority of Northern Nevada and president of the Tech Alliance.
Not all kids at Sage Ridge have silver spoon access. About one-third of the students receive financial assistance. And with the continued support of donors, school administrators expect that next year about 10 percent of the student body will be receiving full scholarships.
“These kids are amazing,” said Gaye McCollum, humanities instructor for the high school grades. McCollum’s students read the Washington Post and New York Times to keep up with current happenings. Students love this, McCollum said. So do parents.
“They are so into world events," she said. "Parents say they sit down at the table and talk about world news, and the kids have different points of view from them. They like that."