NW BOCES secured 1st round of matching funds for $2.9 million i3 grant | SteamboatToday.com

NW BOCES secured 1st round of matching funds for $2.9 million i3 grant

— The Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services has secured its first round of necessary funding to move forward with a federal innovation grant worth $2.9 million.

NW BOCES had until last Wednesday to secure $219,000 of a total $438,000 needed in matching funding needed for the U.S. Department of Education's Investing in Innovation, or i3, grant.

The group is receiving a $67,000 in-kind donation from education software firm RANDA Solutions and the remaining $152,000 from the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board.

The Fund Board is a group tasked with divvying out the half-cent sales tax collected from consumers for local schools. The group heard the request for funding from BOCES and approved the donation outside its typical grant cycle at a meeting Dec. 3.

"They saw the importance and the need to act quickly," said Amy Bollinger, NW BOCES executive director. "We're very grateful and appreciative of the support from the Education Fund Board and RANDA."

Fund Board President Kristi Brown said members of the Fund Board and its Grant Commission were excited to offer the donation.

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"As teacher quality is the most important factor in student success in the classroom, the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board and Grant Commission members were very excited to approve a contribution," Brown said in a news release.

Grant Commission members said in November that although they were supportive of giving the funding, they would appreciate BOCES finding alternate funding so they could rescind their donation and use the money for other grants.

"We would love to be able to return some of that money to be used in the schools," said Beth Melton, special education literacy grant coordinator at BOCES.

NW BOCES plans to use the i3 grant to create a System for Educator Effectiveness, a meaningful professional development program for educators in rural areas.

The SEED program will benefit teachers in seven districts that BOCES works with.

"We are so excited about this project, and I think that excitement is being echoed," Melton said.

Planning is already underway for the SEED program, which will pilot in some schools before being implemented in all schools in districts in Grand, Jackson, Moffat and Routt counties.

"Our priority is to make sure that we are designing a project that meets the needs of all of our districts," Melton said. "We're really excited."

Melton said that in addition to providing funding, sponsoring organizations like the Fund Board are becoming invested in the SEED program.

"Every person on that board was invested in the program," said Julie Dalke, professional development and technology integration coordinator at NW BOCES.

When the grant is received, NW BOCES will be the only Colorado recipient of the i3 grant.

The leadership team at BOCES noted that while they're pleased that they were able to receive the first round of matching funds, they still will need to receive an additional $219,000 by July 1.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow