Westport Schools’ Innovative Innovation Fund

The Westport Public Schools want students to think creatively and innovatively; to approach problems in ways no one else conceives of. That’s an important part of education — and crucial for success in the 21st century.

To do that, teachers must model that type of thinking.

And to give everyone extra encouragement, the district is putting its money where its mouth is.


A $50,000 Innovation Fund is available to all students, faculty and staff. The goal is to encourage exciting ideas, foster new ways of thinking, and nurture an ongoing culture of creativity.

It’s not a new concept — districts like Wilton, Trumbull, Chappaqua and Scarsdale — have similar funds. But they’re usually run by third parties, such as foundations.

But, according to director of elementary education Julie Droller and technology director Natalie Carrignan, the Westport district wanted to select the best ideas itself. Board of Education member Mark Mathias was an early proponent of the fund. Superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer was also a strong advocate.

“We’re looking for solutions to problems that we otherwise would not have the equipment, time or resources for,” Droller says. “We know there are lots of great ideas out there.”

Just a couple of weeks after the fund was created, applications are pouring in.

Proposals include new ways of using technology, novel activities and requests for physical devices.

Drones are fun. They can also be educational.

One example: enhancement to the middle school STEM curriculum by using drones and coding software to solve real-world challenges.

Another: Teachers using technology to help them reflect on how they’re doing in the classroom. It’s similar, Carrignan says, to coaches who use game film to analyze performances.

The Innovation Fund is available to anyone in the district. One 3rd grade parent asked for more information, for her child.

A committee meets this week to review the first batch of requests. To learn more, click here.

4 responses to “Westport Schools’ Innovative Innovation Fund

  1. Carl Addison Swanson

    Welp, they pay kids to read nowadays and it works. I guess you have to pay folks to innovate? I always thought that was part of the educational system’s job to begin with but I guess it is easier to use tax payer’s money. It is not like we here in CT aren’t taxed enough already? 50K. Whew!

  2. Bravo! Finally the BOE is getting their feet wet in the future of Education.
    This is exactly where we need to go. School’s need to evolve. The Digital Divide has changed everything and we need to embrace it at our schools.
    Kudo’s to Mark Mathis for leading the charge (what does it tell you when 10,000 people show up for a Maker event here in Westport?). We have the Maker Space now we need a Hacker Space; STEAM classrooms are where our children will flourish and ‘learn to love learning’ by solving real world problems. Schools are where the children need to ‘imagine’ their future, that’s what we need to “teach” them.

    • I agree about STEAM. Sadly, the big push seems to be focused on the STEM model, which is far less enriching and holistic.

  3. This is terrible! As we all know the Board of Education and Superintendent Palmer delivered a “cut-to-the-bone” budget this year, doing their part to mitigate the coming Hartford debacle and, as they said in their plea for restoration of the Board of Finance cuts, needed every penny to prevent “staffing cuts, cutting of freshman Staples football, cutting of middle school music programs, institution of “pay-for-play” sports, etc.” All of which would have people fleeing Westport or buying a house elsewhere since the schools are the only reason to live here. OMG, which of these is being used to fund the $50,000 for this initiative? Please don’t tell me they cut the funding for the commercial treadmill for Colleytown Middle School! Or maybe they sold the four recumbent desk bikes in the second floor atrium at Staples? You know, the ones with the 2″ of dust on them from non-use.
    ……………………………Wake up Westport taxpayers!