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In an effort to capitalize on great ideas from teachers, the Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education will be launching the Jeffco Innovation Acceleration Fund that will invest in the planning, implementing and scaling of innovative ideas to transform student learning experiences.
After an hour discussion Jan. 11, the board voted unanimously to fund the project with $1 million from the reserve fund.
“I'm excited that were going down the road of encouraging,” said board member Brad Rupert.
The fund will provide start up money to applicants who meet the criteria and are chosen by the committee. Once the innovation is launched, the programs will be sustained through school based budgets.
The innovation program was sparked from Superintendent Dr. Jason Glass' desire for teachers to pursue more entrepreneurial projects as outlines in his vision statement, Jeffco Generations.
“We know our educators and employees have great ideas all the time,” Glass said. “This will allow everyone in the district to apply for start-up funding.”
Applications opened the morning after the meeting, Jan. 12 and are due by Feb. 9. All applications will be evaluated based on an established rubric and those with a high enough score will be invited to pitch their innovations to a selection committee the week of Feb. 26.
The recipients will be announced the week of March 5.
Glass said the tight turnaround will allow the district to evaluate the process this spring and start planning for next year early.“We think that by implementing process we can systemically encourage and support innovation,” Glass said.
For board member Amanda Stevens, because this is a pilot with no guarantee for future funding it was easy to support because she considered it “low risk.”
“I think it's a reasonable one-time investment,” Stevens said.
But board member Ali Lasell was hesitant to agree to spend money from the districts reserve funds.
“There's so many competing demands in our schools,” Lasell said. “I am very supportive of innovation and a lot of that is happening in our schools as is. But we have critical needs in programming and facilities. I'm having a hard time wrapping my had around the million dollars.”
Encouragement from Glass that the funds were going into the schools to be used for the betterment of students and reassurance from the finance department that the reserve funds will remain in the suggested range seemed to turn Lasell's hesitation into a “yes” vote.
“We have reserves for a fear of what can happen in the future,” Rupert said. “I don't want us to be defined by fear of what can happen in the future. I want to be defined by what can happen for students.”
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