Balancing The Books

K-12 investment best practices

This past March, Intrinsic Schools in Chicago launched a new scholarship program for any graduate of its downtown or Belmont Campus. The unprecedented program is designed to award each high school class $1.5 million, or $375,000 per year, renewable for up to four years, in annual scholarships. The first round of scholarships—which will be awarded to Intrinsic’s Class of 2023—apply to two- or four-year colleges, certification or trade programs.

Founded by a team of educators from Chicago Public Schools, the mission of Intrinsic Schools was to create a new, excellent public school option for middle and high school students in Chicago. By attending to the needs of the whole student, Chief of Schools Daena Adams says that making an investment in the educational process requires more than good test scores or job interviews. That’s why decisions are made in partnership with families, and via its spate of partners.

“We have several partnerships and investments that help us provide our students with the best educational opportunities possible,” Adams says. “They range from academic to extracurricular to mental health, etc. Students are able to experience different academic opportunities, such as computers, advanced classes, a variety of electives, etc.”

“We have several partnerships and investments that help us provide our students with the best educational opportunities possible.”

— Daena Adams, Chief of Schools, Intrinsic Schools

In all, Intrinsic Schools has more than 75 different partnerships across its network of schools. Being able to provide these opportunities opens the door for students to truly explore themselves and their interests, as well as provide support to its staff and keep the community engaged.

Over the past year, Intrinsic piloted a partnership with Panorama and one of its campuses. The relationship helped with its MTSS (Multi-tiered System of Supports) as it relates to the SEL (Social Emotional Learning) aspect of its curriculum. “It helped us to know how students are feeling, identify supports they might need and help guide us into creating an environment that is conducive to student learning,” Adams says. “This worked so well, we will be implementing it at our other campus this school year.”

In addition, Intrinsic partners with City Colleges and Outlier—a relationship that has enabled its students to take and complete Dual Enrollment classes for college credit. And for students who are unable to physically make it to school for medical and/or safety reasons, it has a partnership with Edmentum/Apex Learning. This also allows Intrinsic educators to offer classes to students who may have fallen behind and need to get caught up with their course work to graduate high school on time.

Adams says that each program is reviewed based on its district priorities as they relate to its strategic plan and mission/vision. This ensures the investment remains aligned with achieving its goals. “We are fully committed to postsecondary success for all of our students and believe that such success is driven by strong instruction, exposure and opportunities and a connection to school. We are also committed to collaborating with others—we share and learn from our colleagues locally and nationally, working together to improve outcomes for our students.”

The strategy is clear and focused, i.e., everything is judged on the impact an investment has on the students. To help hone in on the decision, Intrinsic completes trials of different programs to determine if the program or partnership will do what is intended. Once it can ensure an investment will benefit the students, parents and staff, it evaluates the terms of the agreement, including the terms of the arrangement. 

“We have to consider which staff members have the capacity to see the project through and if it is something they can maintain for the length of time allotted,” Adams says. “We also have to consider how we will measure the results of the investment. How do we know it is working?”

Attention to every detail matters

For the past 30-plus years, Marcheta Gillespie has been a trusted advisor and proven change agent for state and local government leaders. With her counsel as President of NIGP Code & Consulting, Gillespie has helped scores of agencies successfully transform their procurement processes, policies and systems.

More than anything else, her advice when it comes to evaluating and prioritizing purchases is to not only make sure everyone is involved in the process, but also follow the data. 

“In order to ensure investment decisions are sound, they must be made with access to the right data. [For example] data on procurement decisions can affect the timing, quality and cost of procurement actions,” Gillespie says. “Procurement professionals should be regularly communicating with their internal and external stakeholder communities. One of the most important competencies of a procurement professional is relationship management.”

“In order to ensure investment decisions are sound, they must be made with access to the right data.”

— Marcheta Gillespie, President, NIGP Code & Consulting

Gillespie says that through the development and management of relationships with stakeholders, procurement achieves its optimal performance in all areas of strategic planning, sourcing and contract management. Whether building a scope of work, negotiating a contract or addressing a performance issue with a contractor, procurement must collaborate with stakeholders to effectively and efficiently serve the entity and the community. “The procurement professionals’ knowledge of industry, supply chain impacts, procurement regulations and best practices help to guide an entity to making the most informed decisions that are in the best interests of the community it serves.”

During her tenure as Dean of Students and Vice Principal for the Harlem Charter School in New York City, Brittany Hunter prioritized two things every year. Typically, when parents are getting their students ready for the school year, they are armed with a list of materials and school supplies they need. The list can include everything from tissue boxes to notebooks, and even laptops if necessary. The expectation is that every parent provides these resources for each of their children, regardless of their socio-economic status.

Without the proper resources, the burden can be too much for some families. In 2022, the National Retail Federation reported that upward of $37 billion was spent on back-to-school supplies, leaving parents spending anywhere from $600-$700 per child to prepare for the new school year.1

“The best thing a school [district] can do is equip each school with all the resources a classroom teacher will need for the entirety of the school year,” says Hunter, who today works as Business Manager for Microsoft. “Emphasizing the value of continuous learning and innovation, this approach fosters a culture where teachers remain curious and constantly seek new perspectives to approach subjects and engage students effectively. By demonstrating equal investment in both students’ achievements and the ongoing growth of their educators, a school district can showcase its commitment to providing a nurturing and intellectually stimulating academic environment.”

In the end, the goal of any school district is to give all of its students an opportunity to continue their education. Doing so means giving them the resources and tools they need, which translates into making the right investments. 1 – Source: