Idea Quest hopes inspires change within district


Photo by Emma Sneden

Science teacher Stacy Bartlett submitted seven Idea Quest ideas last year, with one being chosen. Bartlett's chosen idea was a therapy dog.

Emma Sneden, Business Editor

Idea Quest is a way for the district staff to submit ideas about solving problems or adding to the district. During the end of Oct. and beginning of Nov., staff are able to submit their solutions through a website and then vote on them.

Idea Quest began in 2017 with five ideas being accepted, one of which gave access to the internet for students unable to use it at home. The entire staff of the school district, not just teachers, are able to add ideas and given the chance to get them accepted.

The vision of Idea Quest originally came from Minnetonka, but expanded when a group of districts wanted to make improvements. Stillwater Area Public Schools, Minnetonka Public Schools, Eden Prairie Public Schools, Austin Public Schools, Orono Public Schools, Cambridge Public Schools and Becker Public Schools decided to create a cohort and bring forward this vision. Executive director of learning and innovation Robert McDowell was a part of this group.

“The people from those schools and myself started getting together and thinking about how we could do some things differently,” McDowell said.

I always want to do what I think is best for the students, even if it means that I have to go out on a limb to get that.”

— Stacy Bartlett

The process works through phases. The first phase is the submissions of ideas, where staff are sent a link to submit ideas and comment on other ideas for about a week. Next, staff are able to vote on two ideas at a time for about two weeks. Thirdly, the district office decides on which idea they can support and move forward. Lastly, the district office figures out the logistics of the idea, which is called design thinking.

“There’s an algorithm that’s running in the background because we partner with a company called Optum, which has done the software for this, so that algorithm then gives us a rating for all the ideas in order of what the crowd thinks is the most popular down to the least popular,” McDowell said.

Last year, the ideas ranged from a meeting for the head custodians of every building in the district to providing access to the internet for students who are unable to obtain it. One of the five ideas that were accepted was a therapy dog, submitted by science teacher Stacy Bartlett.

“I always want to do what I think is best for the students, even if it means that I have to go out on a limb to get that,” Bartlett said.

Compared to the previous system of requesting ideas, through a big meeting, Idea Quest allows more of a range of ideas to be submitted and looked over.

Science teacher Doug Petty explained how this innovation allows for anybody to submit ideas and how “it’s not necessarily left up to one or two people to pick the idea.”

“Sometimes when we have a big meeting, a lot of good discussions come out of it, but it takes us off the topic of actually finding ideas,” Petty added

The final round of voting for Idea Quest ended Nov. 18 and the final decisions will be made within the next two weeks.