“Any time we can jumpstart innovation in schools it is a good allocation of our funding,” said James Denova, Benedum Foundation vice president. “Assisting schools in moving from the planning stage to the implementation stage of Innovation Zones is exciting. Ultimately, West Virginia students are the beneficiaries.”
The grant, announced during the state Board of Education meeting Wednesday in Morgantown, will fund competitive mini-grants that will be awarded to some of the 19 schools and consortiums that already were selected as pilot Innovation Zones. The money must be used for implementation of Innovation Zone project plans, such as professional development, stipends for faculty to design and create curriculum and resources, and collaborative meetings between communities, parents and schools.
“Innovation zones allow schools to adapt to changing times and embrace new ideas and new teaching strategies so that our children prosper in the global economy of the 21st century,” said West Virginia Superintendent Steve Paine. “This grant will help our pilot sites put their Innovation Zone plans into action as they become learning laboratories with the flexibility to try new, research-based teaching methods to improve student learning.”
The School Innovations Zones Act, adopted last year, encourages pilot projects at schools around the state. The law allows for waivers to certain state laws, rules and policies to give teachers and principals greater local control over the curriculum, schedule and staffing in their schools.
A portion of the Benedum grant also will be used to establish a social support network for Innovation Zone participants. The network, similar to Facebook, will allow schools to create their own page to showcase their innovation, share best practices and lessons learned, as well as network with other innovators.
“This generous gift will help these pilot sites blaze the 21st century learning trail,” said West Virginia Board of Education President Priscilla Haden. “We express our sincere thanks to the Benedum Foundation for its commitment to innovation in education.”
The Pittsburgh-based Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation is an independent foundation established in 1944 by West Virginia natives Michael and Sarah Benedum. The foundation funds education, health and human services, community development and economic development projects in West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania.
For more information, contact Donna Peduto, Innovation Zones coordinator, at 304-558-3199, or the Office of Communications at 304-558-2699.