Published : Wednesday, July 4, 2012 | 1:14 AM
Flintridge Preparatory School was one of only four schools in the nation awarded a leadership grant by the Edward E. Ford Foundation recently. The Ford Foundation hand-selects eight schools to apply for the grant each year, and seeks to reward originality and innovation. They are looking for schools with a concept that is comprehensive, transformational, and transportable—an idea that inspires other institutions and that other institutions can emulate. Flintridge Prep was awarded one of the four grants for its IdeaLab concept.
Inspired by the Pasadena company by the same name, as well as President of the National Association of Independent Schools Pat Bassett, who has encouraged schools to become more innovative, Flintridge Prep’s IdeaLab concept challenges the traditional notion of school structure. In a typical school year, wonderful ideas bubble up, and the school’s IdeaLab, overseen by the Assistant Headmaster, Peter Vaughn, supports and incubates these ideas. In fact, the role of Assistant Headmaster has been reconstituted so that he has more time and resources to manage and support innovative thinking on campus.
Headmaster Peter Bachmann notes, “Independent school organization has been the same for decades and has been wonderful in managing moderate and predictable change. That, in Pat Bassett’s words, remains necessary but no longer sufficient. Our new design places innovation at the heart of daily life for administrators, teachers, and students.”
Currently four initiatives developed through the IdeaLab structure will receive support from the Ford grant: The Nicaragua Collaborative Initiative run by Spanish teacher Manny Nunez, The Community Impact Project Initiative run by science and dance teacher Hilary Thomas, The Mentoring Initiative run by art history teacher and Co-Director of College Counseling Vanessa Walker-Oakes, and The Engaging L.A. Initiative run by English teacher Patrick Ferry. Each of the initiatives has been underway for at least a year.
“All these programs were originated by an individual teacher who has the passion, background, and motivation to develop the initiative over time,” says Mr. Peter Bachmann. The programs provide broad, immersive experiences for students and other members of the community. Mr. Bachmann continues, “The initiatives promote student collaboration beyond the immediate Flintridge campus, increasing the cosmopolitanism of our students while benefitting others in our community and beyond through civic engagement.”
Ultimately Flintridge wants the IdeaLab structure to model for its students the creative and innovative process of making good ideas into great programs, in addition to fostering the individual talents and passions of its community members. The $250,000 grant from the Ford Foundation will make this mission a reality.