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Grace to assume school governance

Grace Cascade Christian Schools is well on its way to becoming a self-governing, nonprofit entity separate from First Baptist Church.

Earlier this year, the school filed for 501(c)3 status as Grace Cascade Christian Schools and is in the process of filling six seats on the school board, which currently includes six First Baptist Church elders.

It was a common misconception that Grace Christian School and Cascade Christian High School were Baptist schools rather than nondenominational Christian schools, said Head of Schools Devon Rickabaugh.

“Having our own board will allow us a broader reach in the community … and a support system that includes other Christ-centered churches,” Rickabaugh said.

First Baptist Church will retain three of the nine seats on the board “to help maintain the integrity of who we are as a Christian school” and recognize the church’s role in the formation of the schools, Rickabaugh said.

Grace Christian School was founded in 1974 by First Baptist staff and members of the congregation. The high school was established three years later, but in 1982 it was turned over to a group of parents. It was housed first by Cornerstone Church and then by Joy Christian Fellowship before moving into the former Jacksonville Elementary School campus. In 2003, Cascade came back under the umbrella of First Baptist Church, and a few years later relocated to the new state-of-the-art high school building on Chevy Way in Medford.

Rickabaugh said school and church administration began discussing the possibility of restructuring the school board in 2013 and formed a committee to evaluate the sustainability of Grace Cascade Christian Schools.

Last December, 85 percent of church members voted in favor of the schools being independent from the church.

"The staff and volunteers and students at Grace and Cascade come from a variety of churches in Jackson County, so the ministry of the schools goes well beyond the church walls," said Conrad Morse, a First Baptist elder and member of GCCS' current board. "We felt it was time to go ahead and transition to a board that would be responsible of conducting business for Grace Cascade Christian Schools."

Rickabaugh hopes that by June, GCCS will have filled the six available seats on the board, approved new bylaws, transferred its assets and executed a lease agreement with the church, which will continue to host Grace Christian School.

The current school board will interview prospective candidates.

“I've met with nine or 10 individuals already who I hope will apply and are already involved in the schools,” Rickabaugh said.

The board, she added, will look for candidates who have a passion for GCCS, an understanding of its history, a desire to reach the valley with Christian education and a vision for the schools.

The board will oversee the hiring and firing of employees, set school policy and supervise the head of schools.

In addition to those changes, Cascade Christian recently transformed its library into a multimedia center with 36 new computers for students. The renovations were made possible by an anonymous $160,000 donation.

The high school also is looking to expand the second story of its building to make room for the middle school, which will transition from Grace Christian School’s campus in fall 2016.

This winter, 736 kindergarten through 12th-grade students are enrolled in Grace Cascade Christian Schools.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.