For two years now the Jeffco Innovation Acceleration Fund has invited school district staff to apply for a portion of a $1 million fund to support creative ideas. And this year, thanks to some …
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For two years now the Jeffco Innovation Acceleration Fund has invited school district staff to apply for a portion of a $1 million fund to support creative ideas. And this year, thanks to some consideration and “a little nudge from our student intern,” district leaders have decided to open up the contest to high school students, too, said chief strategy officer Tom McDermott.
Through Oct. 28, students in grades nine through 11 and any Jeffco staff member can apply for the Innovation Acceleration Fund. The district will accept up to 1,000 student applications and an unlimited number of staff applications.
The annual $1 million Innovation Acceleration Fund is funded annually by Jefferson County Public Schools. The ongoing funding was first set aside by Superintendent Jason Glass and the Board of Education, who wanted “to encourage the solutions that we know exist within our incredible staff,” McDermott said.
Applicants can submit a `Small Idea,’ with an estimated budget of $5,000 or less; a `Medium Idea,’ with a budget between $5,000 and $50,000; or a `Big Idea,’ with a budget of $50,000 or more. Individuals can apply for up to three consecutive years of funding and are asked to show how their project would financially sustain itself after those three years.
“We have not said that X amount will go to students and X to staff. We want to see what kind of ideas come out,” McDermott said. “The requirement we have is that the idea is something that will improve student learning experiences. We were intentionally vague in not wanting to squash any innovation that exists out there.”
The best ideas will align with Jeffco Generations, the district’s strategic plan, he said. The plan emphasizes authentic learning experiences and encourages teachers to find creative, perhaps-nontraditional ways to communicate course material.
Previous winners have included a program to reengage teenagers who have dropped out of Jeffco schools; support for South Jeffco Children’s Theatre; and training and equipment to several robotics clubs, McDermott said.
After all ideas are submitted on Oct. 28, the first round of community voting will open Oct. 29. Round 1 runs through Nov. 8 and invites any school community member to login to the voting platform with his or her Jeffco Public Schools email.
During the voting process, ideas are paired up, with voters asked to choose one idea from each pair; an individual can continue to vote until they have seen every idea one time.
District leaders will choose ideas with the highest votes from each articulation area and collaborate with the innovators to create a more specific budget and plan. Once the plans are finalized, a second round of community voting will take place Jan. 10-24, after which district leaders will make their final decisions.
“I don’t know of anywhere else in the country that is willing to fund student ideas to improve student experiences,” McDermott said. “We’re in the vanguard of school districts leading this, so I’m really excited about that.”
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