Staples, Minn.,
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Area Education Projects to Receive $2.6 Million in Innovation Funding

“It is exciting that there continues to be more enthusiasm and understanding of the process and commitment of Innovation Funding. Since 2014, we’ve seen room to grow existing projects and room to introduce new projects while maintaining a good pace to make sure projects are aligned with each other, are effective, and work well with the services provided through NJPA Education Solutions and with other key regional partners.”
Paul Drange, NJPA Director of Regional Programs

STAPLES, Minn. (22 May 2017) -- Thirteen projects that will directly benefit school districts in Region 5 are recommended to receive a collective $2.6 million in Innovation Funding from National Joint Powers Alliance® (NJPA) for the 2017-18 school year.

Region 5 education leaders gathered at NJPA on May 11 for the 2017 Innovation Funding Review Day, giving nearly a dozen local schools and education partners an opportunity to present their projects. The day consisted of 19 project presentations with a total request of $4 million in funding.

NJPA Director of Regional Programs, Paul Drange, says the number of proposals and the wealth of ideas were overwhelming in a good way.

“It is exciting that there continues to be more enthusiasm and understanding of the process and commitment of Innovation Funding,” Drange said. “Since 2014, we've seen room to grow existing projects and room to introduce new projects while maintaining a good pace to make sure projects are aligned with each other, are effective, and work well with the services provided through NJPA Education Solutions and with other key regional partners.”

Area superintendents attended the Review Day and had the opportunity to rank proposals, as well as provide comments and feedback on how well each project aligned with Innovation Funding criteria: meets needs within Region 5 school districts, is collaborative in nature, and has the potential to expand to multiple districts.

NJPA's Superintendent Advisory Committee, along with Drange, and NJPA Leader of Education, Kassidy Rice, looked at superintendent feedback and made the final recommendations for funding.

“The rankings and comments from Region 5 superintendents guided our discussion on choosing the final recommended projects,” Drange said. “We feel we selected projects that align well with what's happening in the region and what's needed, and projects that can grow and expand to have multi-district impact.”

Drange presented the recommendations for the 13 projects to NJPA's Board of Directors at its May 16 meeting. It is expected the board will give final approval of NJPA's overall budget for fiscal year 2017-18 at its next meeting in midJune, allowing the projects to come to contract after July 1, 2017.

NJPA began offering Innovation Funding for Education Solutions and City and County Solutions in 2014-2015. In its inaugural year, NJPA committed $750,000 in education funding. That total was increased to just over $1 million in 2015- 2016, and over $1.5 million for 2016-2017. In order to continue a tradition of supporting innovative ideas and projects throughout the region, NJPA officials chose to raise the education funding allotment to $2.6 million for 2017-2018.

Innovation Funding Review Day for cities, counties, and nonprofits is Thursday, June 1.

2017 Innovation Funding - Education Recommended Projects


  • Alternative Career Pathways (ACP) $449,772 - Alternative Career Pathways is an organic, teacher-powered initiative that brings ownership, relevance, and impact back to teacher professional development. Currently funded by NJPA, ACP provides teachers from Bertha-Hewitt, Little Falls, Menahga, Pequot Lakes, Pierz, Pillager, Swanville, Upsala, Verndale, and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley with an opportunity to explore professional interests Paul Drange, NJPA Director of Regional Programs through meaningful and empowering professional development experiences. Since its inception two years ago, ACP has helped more than 200 educators in participating Region 5 school districts experience the power of personalized learning in their own professional development, honoring the fact that adult learners have unique needs, life experiences, and skill sets from which to build upon.
  • Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) $237,626 - AVID was created in 1980 to train educators in using proven practices to prepare students for success in high school, college, and a career - especially students traditionally under presented in higher education. AVID brings research‐based strategies and curriculum to educational institutions in elementary, secondary, and higher education. The AVID System annually provides 60,000+ educators with training and methodologies that develop students' critical thinking, literacy, and math skills across all content areas throughout the entire campus. More than 97 percent of AVID high school seniors graduate from high school, and more than 75 percent are accepted to four-year colleges consistently. Today, AVID is implemented in nearly 4,900 school districts and impacts more than 700,000 students in grades K-12 and in 41 post-secondary institutions. It will be the expectation that the site teams at Central Lakes College, Little Falls, Pierz, Pillager, and Upsala will be available to present about AVID to other Region 5 schools.
  • Bridges Career Academies and Workplace Connections $193,500 - Bridges, under the sponsorship of the Crosby Ironton School District, has served high schools throughout Region 5 over the past year with the support of Innovation Funding. The program's goals seek to bridge the gap between education and the workplace by providing career exploration, integrated career pathway curriculum and work-based learning experiences to the high school's academic middle. Bridges prepares students to be career and college ready for the 21st century's high wage, high skill and high growth jobs. Bridges proposes to continue to enhance and develop current services to Region 5 partners as well as develop additional program services, including online services, establishing an Academy Task Force, exploration and development of scholarship opportunities, and more.
  • Central Minnesota CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) $47,500 - CEO is a collaborative effort between Staples-Motley and Wadena-Deer Creek Public Schools that is available to juniors and seniors that started in the fall of 2014 and gives students the opportunity to work side-by-side with successful business people from both communities. This program is non-traditional in that class meets at a different area business each quarter for an entire school year and students learn about entrepreneurship first hand from successful local entrepreneurs. Once students get their feet under them, they develop a business plan and start their own business. The program aims to develop young entrepreneurs that have the skills necessary to develop new businesses in the area or be an asset to an existing business or industry in the area. The Central Minnesota CEO program plans to use its additional funding to add Verndale Public Schools to its mix.
  • Collaborating Online $75,870 - Collaborating Online is a pilot project championed by Verndale Public Schools Superintendent Paul Brownlow in partnership with the Pillager and Staples-Motley school districts, as well as MState and Central Lakes College. This hybrid model of education serves with the intent of expanding concurrent enrollment options to give all partners a voice in expanding highly personalized and effective college and career readiness services for the students in Region 5. Through Collaborating Online, a college instructor will serve as the instructor of record in an online concurrent course, while a high school instructor will take an active and direct team teaching role in the course by assisting with course development, providing lectures, and other activities to support student learning of the course outcomes. The high school instructor will also assist with the evaluation of student work to ensure college-level rigor, and provide structured and supportive learning time for students during the high school day to support their academic enrichment and success.
  • Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program (RMCEP) $342,055 - RMCEP plans to provide Career Advisor Services to an additional 5,000 students throughout Region 5. Career Advising Services provide high school students and families with information, guidance, and opportunities to connect with community employers and regional occupations in demand. These connections will provide enhanced opportunities that lead to a more prosperous future and contribute to breaking the chronic cycle of poverty that exists in families across the region.
  • The Innovative Schools Project $125,000 - The intent of this project is to provide matching funding to a single 501©(3) organization from each Region 5 school district that raises funds for Innovative Classroom grants in public schools. Through the funding, each designated organization would be eligible for a dollar-for-dollar match for money raised up to $5,000. Entities involved in the project include Pillager Public Schools, the Initiative Foundation, and the Brainerd Public Schools Foundation.
  • Metier $61,334 - Metier is an experiential learning program that teaches students to know and lead themselves using play, flow, and love so they may direct themselves into a career field that most interests them - allowing them to be themselves for a lifetime. This project will be led by administration at Pillager Public Schools and Metier co-founders Jordan Herman and Kevin Votaw. Metier intends to use the funds to provide curriculum development resources and equipment, professional development, required travel and other related expenses to carry out the programming throughout Region 5.
  • The Open Educational Resource in Concurrent Enrollment Project $60,000 - The Open Educational Resource in Concurrent Enrollment Project plans to promote and advance the use of open textbooks and other open access materials for students who take College in the Schools (CIS) courses at Region 5 high schools offered through Central Lakes College (CLC) and MState Wadena. The first year of the project was successful in aligning high school and college courses in terms of course resources, curriculum, and outcomes. School districts will see significant cost savings as OER materials proliferate. More importantly, this project provides a framework for teachers to feel comfortable enough to use these resources in their classrooms. Ultimately, students should achieve greater success and increased post-secondary opportunities.
  • Forestview Middle School Planetarium $206,316 (sought either $313,836 or $574,086)- Brainerd Public Schools plans to use funding to cover the maintenance of planetarium equipment, and acquisition of a full-time director to design lessons and meet the needs of a variety of grade levels to cover science standards. Up to six school districts, or 3,000 students, from Region 5 would be involved in year one. A half-time secretary would also be hired to organize, plan, schedule, and promote the project to other districts and the public. Monthly planetarium shows would be scheduled and open to the public.
  • The Roadmap to REACH $68,000 - The Roadmap to REACH is a research-based and data-driven program that will strengthen student motivation to succeed in school and beyond by developing non-cognitive skills. The project includes pre and post intervention survey analysis; intensive, intentional and focused professional development - delivered by the Search Institute - with cohorts of teachers/professional staff from each participating school; and customized consultative guidance. The proposal also calls for regional coordination and a system to support efforts throughout school districts and stages of implementation. Initiators of the request, include Pine River-Backus, Pequot Lakes, Little Falls, Sebeka, and Upsala school districts.
  • The Brandon Project $133,027 - The Brandon Project is a partnership between the Brainerd Lakes Chamber - Bridges Career Academy and Workplace Connection, Paul Bunyan Special Education Cooperative, Crow Wing County Social Services, Cragun's Resort, and Ruttger's Resort. The project would create long-term sustainable employment opportunities for adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities. The Brandon Project looks to bring education, social services, and businesses together to create long-term, sustainable employment solutions throughout the region.
  • Technology Mobile $600,000 - Tech Mobile began in 2014 to serve Region 5 by providing technological equipment to students in K-12 to get them excited, engaged, and inspired about a variety of career opportunities. By sharing equipment throughout the region, Tech Mobile exposes students to state-of-the-art technology without each individual school district having the responsibility of the high costs of equipment and supplies. Tech Mobile plans to use the funds to continue offering technological equipment and services throughout the area.

About NJPA

Sourcewell (formerly National Joint Powers Alliance) is a self-supporting government organization, partnering with education, government, and nonprofits to boost student and community success. Created in 1978 as one of Minnesota's nine service cooperatives, we offer training and shared services to our central-Minnesota members. Throughout North America, we offer a cooperative purchasing program with over 200 awarded vendors on contract. Sourcewell is driven by service and the ability to strategically reinvest in member communities.