Darby School seeks ideas on use of $3 million gift


DARBY, Mont. - Darby School is asking the community for more ideas on how best to use a whopping $3 million gift.

NBC Montana first told you about the late Archie and Sue Lorentzen last year, and the money they gave Archie's alma mater.

The school is investing it and using the interest administrators say will improve education for all grade levels.

Archie Lorentzen graduated from Darby High School in 1949. He went on to make a fortune.

We met students Morgan Shull and Evangeline Campbell in the school's greenhouse. They are part of a personalized learning course where they do intensive study with plants.

Shull spearheaded efforts to make better use of the greenhouse, which had been under-used.

"I would love to do something in agriculture," said Shull. "I would love to have my own farm."

Campbell will study math and English education in college.

"You're almost a teacher to your plants," she said. "You have to make sure they're in correct health, growing correctly and that they have everything they need to be sustained."

The students also provide lettuce they've grown in the greenhouse to be used for salads in the school cafeteria. Call it care giving.

Darby School's communication coordinator Shelby Rogala obtained a grant to install an automated irrigation system at the greenhouse.

The Lorentzen gift allowed the school to hire Rogala. She raises money, promotes the school through social media, started an alumni association and writes grants.

"We're figuring how we can be the best stewards of this gift," said Rogala. "We're incredibly grateful for this gift, and we wouldn't want to take it for granted or not use it to the best of our ability."

Wednesday was also a landmark day at the school. The IT department put finishing touches on high-speed internet, which will give students and teachers more reliability in their research at much faster speeds.

Under the personalized learning system students must master all classes. But there is more room to develop their special interests.

English teacher Jennifer Burdette recently assigned a research paper that extends to the entire community.

"A research paper about a humanitarian," she said, "and then I required them to go into the community and pay it forward."

NBC Montana saw the result of Hayden Hunter and Drake Horvath's research papers. It's a book exchange that was built in shop class. It will be installed downtown where people can deposit books for other people to read for free.

The second annual Archie and Sue Lorentzen community forum will be from 2 to 4 and 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Darby Community Clubhouse. The community is urged to bring their ideas on education.