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  • Eric Schneider

Chaparral (KS) Leverages District's Culture of Innovation to Secure $3M US DOE School Climate Grant

Over the past two years, Chaparral Superintendent Josh Swartz and his team have encouraged stakeholders to “Spark the Change: Take a Chance to Make a Change” in their crowd-based innovation campaign managed by the team at InnovateK12. This effort has produced a positive response from staff and the Harper County (KS) community, located 60 miles SW of Wichita, but a recent School Climate grant award has further energized the district’s culture of innovation.

As Swartz worked on Chaparral’s innovation pipeline, he noticed that the

small, rural school district (869 students) had a significant number of “school culture and climate” ideas that had the support of staff and community members. “The InnovateK12 platform collected ideas in a way that provided clarity in what the needs are in our area. Seeing this clarity as a leader provides direction in movement, knowing that the alignment exists,” Swartz explained.


With the help of a community member who worked for School Specialty, Swartz soon found himself working with a professional grant-writer with a proven track record of success.


“The experience has been fantastic,” Swartz said. “Our grant-writer was confident that she would be successful, but this goes far beyond anything that we could’ve expected. These grant dollars have really helped us move our innovation projects forward, and it was our culture of innovation that made us such a good candidate for grants because there was clear evidence that all Chaparral stakeholders supported these ideas.”


Swartz noted that the district didn’t just hand over the process to their grant-writer; they worked closely with the grant-writer to be sure district leaders truly owned the programming that would be funded by the grant. But it was the innovation pipeline that gave Swartz the confidence that staff and community members were on board.


According to Swartz, Chaparral already had a strong commitment to the development of a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) for its students, so the alignment with the innovation pipeline and the grant program was key. The U.S. Department of Education’s School Climate Transformation Grant provides competitive grants to develop, enhance, or expand systems of support for schools implementing an evidence-based multi-tiered behavioral framework for improving behavioral outcomes and learning conditions for all students.


The grant program’s website indicates that fundable projects should build capacity for implementing a sustained, school-wide multi-tiered behavioral framework; enhance capacity by providing training and technical assistance to schools; and include an assurance that the applicant will work with a technical assistance provider, such as the PBIS Technical Assistance Center to ensure that technical assistance related to implementing program activities is provided.


Swartz encourages all InnovateK12 members to use the innovation pipeline as a source of grant opportunities, and he is happy to share Chaparral’s story of success - as well as introduce fellow members to John Nawrocki and the grant-writing team at grantwriters.net that helped secure the School Climate grant for Chaparral.