Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Equality's Shark Tank

As a school leader, there is never enough time, energy, or money to meet all of our scholars' needs. It's a frustrating, yet ever-present, part of my role. Before our staff came back to school in August 2016 for professional development, I wanted to think of a way to meet some of the needs of our scholars that may not be met by our current school structure and systems. I was also hoping to provide an opportunity for some of our staff to follow passion projects.

I called it, "Equality's Shark Tank."

The purpose was essentially to support innovation and out of the box thinking, to meet our scholars’ needs in new ways, to test out new ideas and follow through on passion projects, and (I mean this statement with all sincerity) to make the world a better place.

I started with the concept of the TV show Shark Tank. If you haven't watched the show yet, you should. 

The show is comprised of:
  • Budding entrepreneurs who get the chance to fulfill their dreams.
  • They present their ideas to the sharks in the tank .
  • The sharks are titans of industry who turned their ideas into lucrative empires.
  • The contestants try to convince any one of the sharks to invest money in their idea.

Equality's Shark Tank was comprised of:
  • A "pot" of $20,000 of SHARK TANK money.
  • A committee of Sharks (5 total) who selected the projects.
  • An invitation to ALL staff to submit their proposals. 
  • A 15 minute in-person presentation to the Sharks.
  • A deliberation using a pre-determined rubric for the Sharks to award the money.
The ideas could range from special speaker series, curriculum materials, technology, afterschool groups, materials for a class project, classroom environment improvements, gardens, murals, artwork, demonstrations, creative experiments, pet projects to complete with scholars, software for a course, overnight field trips, or experiential learning opportunities for scholars.

The projects were rated on a rubic in the areas of:
  • Innovation: a new method, idea, or strategy at Equality
  • Value to Scholars: is seen as useful; it solves a defined problem or meets a need
  • Wow Factor: shows a personal touch that may be unconventional at our school; implements ideas in new, clever and surprising ways
We had numerous submissions and the Sharks had a very difficult, yet rewarding, time deliberating on the best use of this money. In the end, the following projects won:
  • $3,000 to start a robotics club and invest in the proper equipment
  •  $4,500 for a special guest speaker and a full day of activities to speak to our staff and scholars on the power of an inclusive environment
  • $6,000 to provide a funding foundation to launch Equality’s first overseas trip to Costa Rica in summer 2017
  • $500 for a special guest instructor to teach scholars afterschool how to write a beatbox concerto
  • $3,000 to teach a group of our scholars how to invest in the stock market with real money (and at the end they will donate their final amount of money back to Equality in the form of a legacy gift of their choosing)
  • $3,000 to provide additional professional development courses for our teaching staff provided by Equality’s Adult Programming 
All in all, it was a successful launch of Equality's Shark Tank. While we want all of the projects to be successes, we also acknowledge the level of risk to some of them and look forward to seeing what works with our scholars.

If you’d like to donate to Mr. Morine’s Investment Group, he’s currently raising additional funds for technology items needed to support his group. Please donate here!

I’ll report back in a few months to let you know how the projects proceeded.

Caitlin Franco
Founder & Executive Director
Equality Charter School

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