THE ST. LOUIS PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOUNDATION
SCHOOL INNOVATION GRANTS PROGRAM
The School Innovation Grants Program is designed to be a retention tool that inspires and retains highly-effective school leaders, as well as a tool to discover new ideas that address some of the district’s trickiest challenges. In spring 2015, the SLPS Foundation conducted focus groups with principals to learn what leadership needs existed. Below is a sampling of comments we heard from this dedicated and eternally resourceful group:
“Sometimes I know exactly what I need to do for my students. But I just can’t execute on my ideas.”
“If I had some extra funds, I would get my staff together before the school year to do some common planning and visioning for success.”
“It’s the small things: new technology, family tutoring before the MAP tests… if I could provide these, I know we’d all perform at a higher level.”
Currently, school building principals often have scarce resources to use at their discretion. Research confirms the connection between effective leadership and the ability to innovate. Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning International recommends that effective districts: “… allow for and promote innovation at the school level… and they recognize the importance of providing principals with enough latitude to be able to innovate and create a culture of high expectations within their schools.” (Jim Eck, School Autonomy).
For the purposes of this grant, features that make a proposal innovative include:
- Trying a new approach to an enduring problem/challenge
- Engaging staff, students, parents, or volunteers in problem-solving
- Initiating an unconventional partnership to solve a problem
- Learning from mistakes and course correcting
- Blending ideas/strategies from a multiple new sources
- Re-purposing an existing structure or program to address a challenge in a new way
WHAT CAN FUNDS BE USED FOR? The list below is not exhaustive – if you have a question about whether something will be considered for funding, please contact Danielle Wallis, Program Director
Allowable uses of grant funds:
- Staff training/Professional Development
- Consultants to work with school staff
- Partnerships with outside organizations
- Extra service pay for teachers (on a limited basis)
- Extracurricular program/Club supplies
- Curricula material that aligns with the Transformation Plan
- Field trips/Site Visits/Retreats/Transportation
- Technology (note: tech is only funded if it is being used as a tool to accomplish something innovative. Technology is not, in itself, innovative.)
Unallowable uses of grant funds:
- New staff
- Capital improvements (anything requiring construction workers)
- Technology not approved by the District
- Efforts that are already being funded by the District
- Projects that will require additional funding from other sources, if that additional funding has not yet been secured.
- While not prohibited, we strongly encourage applicants to avoid incentives/consumables as a core expense.
- Anyone on a school leadership team can apply, with approval from the school principal.
- Preference will be given to proposals that have been developed collaboratively with community input (e.g. consultation with students, parents, staff, etc.).
- Each school’s Principal and Network Superintendent must sign off on an application.
No. Each school may only submit one proposal for the School Innovation Grants.
Up to $10,000. Collaborative proposals (2 schools) applying for the “Transition-Readiness” topic can be up to $15,000
Yes, all schools may apply; please note that we will likely not fund the continuation of a previously funded project. If your school has received an innovation grant three years in a row, we ask that you take a hiatus year and not submit an application.
This program exists to advance the goals of the Transformation Plan. To view the Transformation Plan, go to: http://www.slps.org/plan
Yes. An important component of the program is the opportunity for school innovators to get to meet each other, discuss what they are working on, problem solve together and advance each other’s learning. The peer learning exchanges, mandatory for all awardees, will meet four times (5-7:00 PM on Wednesday evenings including Oct 17 and Nov 14; other dates TBD) and may also include guest speakers with content expertise. Schools should send between 2 and 5 representatives from their schools who are central to project implementation, and who can attend all peer exchanges (barring extenuating circumstances). Appetizers and beverages will be served.
“We have obviously benefited greatly from the funding that the Innovation Grant has provided to our grant program… But what I have been pleasantly surprised by during the experience is how valuable the group sessions have been to me as a school leader. I have received outstanding professional development from experts within education as well as professionals outside the field... I have been able to problem solve and strategize with other innovative school leaders in a thoughtful and systematic way. Our time together during the group sessions is inspiring and motivates me to continue to make positive change for my students in innovative ways. Participating in the Innovative Grants program has been an incredibly valuable experience on many levels.”
"Colleagues stand in the hallways chatting or even sit at dinner parties talking about what we could do if only we had the money. We're right: we can do so much more with available money. The School Innovation Grant allows you to take an idea about what you could only do and gives you the money to actually do it!”
“One of the strengths of the program is the interaction and support we have received from our colleagues. Ideas are always great and the Foundation funding is giving us the opportunity to make the ideas a reality – but, sometimes you do not get the results you thought that you would and you learn that mistakes can be educational, too.”