Collective helps make Casa students entrepreneurs

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Casa Grande High School students are going into business this school year.

The school’s Casa Collective will bring several programs together to form a school-wide business that will give students hands-on business experience while allowing them to make a few dollars in the process. The idea is to teach students to design, develop, market and sell their own products and services. Programs like auto shop, culinary arts and even art would design and make the products that could be sold on campus and in the community.

Business support comes from the entrepreneurship class that this year has grown from one to two sessions.

The Casa Collective even has its own website ( where people can view and order all the student products available for sale.

“We’re trying to unleash the innovation and imagination of the kids in a real world business environment and at the same time unite students and teachers from different areas of study,” said school principal Eric Backman.

The entrepreneurship class isn’t the only program growing at Casa Grande. The auto mechanics class, under the direction of Jim Rolle, has grown from two to five sections, and there is growth in all the career technical education programs, according to Backman.

The culinary arts is another popular program with the students, and begins the year with five full sessions. It’s Big House Catering is now drawing business from outside the school community. The class catered last year’s LumaCon, serving pizza made from scratch using many ingredients grown in the school garden.

The Casa Grande communications program is growing as the school’s award-winning student newspaper, The Gaucho Gazette, continues to expand into a multi-media format, this year with a new broadcast lab made possible with a grant from the Petaluma Educational Foundation. The new facility, modeled on the innovative KTV student broadcast studio at Kenilworth Junior High School, allows students to have continuous instruction in broadcast journalism from the 7th through 12th grades.

With every student now in possession of his/her own personal, district-provided computer, what was formerly the school’s computer lab has been converted into a new computer science lab with an array of state-of-the-art Apple computers.

The popular Casa Grande band program, now under the direction of Sean Millard, is working hard to continue to build on its reputation.

Casa Grande’s record-setting Academic Decathlon team hopes to continue building on historic success under the guidance of Scott Wigert, who replaces longtime coach Rick Pillsbury. Casa’s team has been Sonoma County League champion for 33 straight years. Last year, it was seventh in the state and 10th in the United States.

Casa Grande continues to grow, with its enrollment this year between 1,735 and 1,740 students, including around 500 freshmen.

There are seven of what Backman calls “a really strong group” of new teachers.

Mix in several enhancements to the campus and it adds up to a good start to the school year at the Big House.

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