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St. Vrain sees success from strategic partnerships

Outside grants propel district forward with focus on sustainability
2020_06_25_LL_SVVSD Education Services
The St. Vrain Valley School District Educational Services Center. (Photo by Macie May)

Outside grants are helping the St. Vrain Valley School District to pursue unique opportunities with a variety of partners.

Executive Director of Advancement and Strategic Partnerships Hilary Sontag explained during a school board workshop on Wednesday that St. Vrain pursues partnerships to work on a common goal while prioritizing sustainability and ensuring that grants align with the district’s mission. Along with about $30 million in outside funding, partnerships can provide a network of support for students.

Sontag explained that the district is selective when pursuing partnerships and turns away partners that don’t align with its mission, roughly a half to two-thirds of opportunities.

Sontag said that many partner priorities can fall into a trend cycle with interest only lasting one to three years in many cases, meaning that if the district pursues something there’s a good chance the partner funds will dry up in a couple years. This highlights the need to ensure sustainability.

The vast majority of the district’s outside funding — meaning grants from government, corporate and foundation sources — comes from local grants, followed by foundation, corporate and federal dollars. While federal grants can be some of the highest in amount, they take extensive staff time and are highly competitive.

Facilities have received the highest amount of dollars from grants since 2018, in large part due to those large federal grants. Learning services, which covers a diverse spread of core academic needs, and Project Launch are also some of the top funded by outside donors.

The corporations giving the most money to St. Vrain include Toyota, Crestone Peak Resources, Boeing and Google. The largest federal dollars have come from the RISE grant for extended learning, BEST grant for school infrastructure and Counselor Corps Grant for school counseling resources.

As to why St. Vrain has had such success with partnerships, Sontag cited a variety of factors — the district’s universally appealing vision, innovative approaches, steady and apolitical board of education, longstanding superintendent, staff capacity to execute these projects and their reputation to deliver on their promises.

Sontag said the goal is to continue to support the district’s strategic priorities. That includes pursuing funding for the National Innovation and Leadership Institute to spread St. Vrain’s work on the Innovation Center, establishing a Center for Workforce Futures to give all high school students a chance to participate in a real life learning experience and a comprehensive campaign for expansion and programming needs at the Innovation Center.

Sontag plans to look at taking in more major gifts from individual donors, national foundation partnerships and, further down the road, alumni engagement as well.