Innovative Grants: Transforming Rent into Innovation in NC Schools
District State: North Carolina
District Website: http://www.newton-conover.org/
With funding tight, Newton-Conover City Schools launched a program in 2014 to support innovation: Instead of going to the general fund, fees collected when community groups rent district facilities could go to students and staff to develop their own projects.
Grants between $500 and $1,500 have been awarded to projects that enhance learning and the school environment, ranging from purchasing a 3D printer that was used to fashion a prosthetic hand for a student to buying books for an all-boys book club aimed at underprivileged and at-risk elementary students.
Another grant was awarded for the creation of a school “bioswale,” a landscape drainage feature that removes pollutants from surface runoff water.
Students and teachers also produce video documentaries of their projects that are shared districtwide, with project winners honored at an awards ceremony.
The embrace of innovation and creativity has sparked school spirit and fueled an interest in learning. In 2011, the district’s graduation rate was 83 percent; this past year it was 98 percent, due in large part to the Innovative Grant program.