BOE votes to remove the Innovation Fund

The Board of Education (BOE) voted 5-2 to remove the Innovation Fund funding for the 2020-21 school year in a 5-2 vote during their meeting on Feb. 10 to reduce the budget and because of the lack of applicants.

Infographic by Katie Simons '22

The Board of Education (BOE) voted 5-2 to remove the Innovation Fund funding for the 2020-21 school year in a 5-2 vote during their meeting on Feb. 10 to reduce the budget and because of the lack of applicants.

Katie Simons ’22, Arts Editor

The Board of Education (BOE) voted 5-2 to remove the Innovation Fund funding for the 2020-21 school year in a 5-2 vote during their meeting on Feb. 10 to reduce the budget and because of the lack of applicants.

The Innovation Fund was created to inspire creativity within the Westport school system. The fund was budgeted to have $50,000 each school year. To receive a grant from the fund, a  teacher with a pitch to the BOE that is ‘out of the box,’ according to the funds website. However, the BOE didn’t think that having the fund was necessary, especially since they were charged with  decreasing the budget for the 2020-2021 school year.

“My recommendation under the fiscal pressure would be to reduce now, but I would like to keep the structure […] and consider it again next year,” Elaine Whitney, Secretary of the BOE, said during the meeting.

This year, the BOE budget increased by 1.79% due to the cost of reopening Coleytown Middle School; the change to state plan for the health insurance, which will cost the district $1.5 million; and the costs to update school facilities.    

“Certainly not having that money isn’t optimum, but in a tough budget season the Board has to make difficult decisions and really has cut millions of dollars,” Dr. David Abbey, Interim Superintendent of Schools, said.

Certainly not having that money isn’t optimum, but in a tough budget season the Board has to make difficult decisions and really has cut millions of dollars”

— Dr. David Abbey, Interim Superintendent of Schools

Additionally, the BOE chose to cut the Innovation Fund because of the lack of interest from applicants. The BOE didn’t feel as though the ideas being pitched justified having a separate fund.   

“They expanded on things that they were doing, but to me it felt like things they could have been doing with the teachers grant,” Youn Su Chao, a member of the BOE, said during the meeting. 

However, some teachers don’t feel this way. Anthony Granata and Michelle Anderson, the two Bedford Middle School orchestra teachers, applied for the grant during the 2017-2018 school year and received the funding.

“When I found out we received the grant, I jumped up and down with excitement and couldn’t wait to tell Mrs. Anderson and the students,” Granata said. “I remember my students gasping during class when I told them. They were so excited.”

The grant was used to work with professional composer Sean O’Loughlin. He worked with the three grades to compose their own pieces, which both of the teachers believe benefitted their students.    

“When it comes down to it, trying to do more typically costs more, and our annual budget doesn’t always allow for this,” Granata said. “I think for future students, it could be disappointing for them to not get those types of experiences.”