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St. Vrain Leaders Showcase How Their District’s Innovative Curriculum Delivers on the Promise of Public School Tax Dollars

Would you be able to code your way out of a “breakout bus?” What about programming a drone show to light up the night sky with your school athletic team’s logo? Could you employ the latest techniques in cybersecurity to mitigate network attacks?

Students in Colorado’s St. Vrain Valley Schools have those opportunities and so much more.

Superintendent Don Haddad and Deputy Superintendent Jackie Kapushion shared this vision at AASA’s 2024 National Conference on Education on Saturday morning through a presentation titled “Academic Excellence by Design: Delivering a Strong Competitive Advantage.”

The 33,000-student district’s innovative approach to education has become a model for the region, if not the nation. St. Vrain has seen continued diversification, not just in terms of demographics but also in students’ career interests. To that end, district leadership has established a strategic vision through its Foundation Innovation program that seeks to create a strong competitive advantage for its students upon graduation.

Haddad, like all education leaders, told his conference audience that he laments the negative stigmas that continue to plague public education.

“Our country and our country’s future will be determined by what we do in public education, second only to parenting,” Haddad said.

Haddad also noted public education’s overall lack of organizational nimbleness, which stifles its ability to quickly innovate and keep pace with private-sector advancements. He and other St. Vrain leaders hope their Foundation Innovation clears some of the red tape and removes barriers.

The district has cultivated key relationships with the local tech sector, chambers of commerce and, of course, the community. The goal? Quickly and demonstrably deliver on the promise of tax dollars.

“It’s not what [community partners] can do for us but what we will do for them,” Kapushion said. “So we have set to reframe the message. Instead of ‘What can you do for public education?’ we have started to say, ‘Here’s what we will do for you.’”

St. Vrain offers 70 specialized focus programs for its students, ensuring that every student has a pathway post-graduation. From AI to cybersecurity to the arts, the district has offerings for all learners.

District leaders know that their Foundation Innovation system can be replicated elsewhere — both inspiring confidence in public education and accelerating the pace at which public schools can operate.

“Have a vision. Hire really smart, talented people who can make those strategies and those priorities actionable. None of this is done without resources,” Kapushion said. “But in order to get the community to invest, you have to create a compelling vision for that. You have to create excitement. [Your community and business partners] don’t want to invest in a losing team. They want to invest in a winning team.”

Learn more about St. Vrain Valley Public Schools at

(Jason Gaston is coordinator of public/media relations in the Alabaster City Schools in Alabaster, Ala.)

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