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A School Leader's Wish Becomes a $1.25M Grant Award

Updated: Jul 11, 2021

Wish It

Dr. Mary Moss knew what she wanted: To expand Charlotte Lab, a public charter school in the heart of Uptown Charlotte, into a high school. Her program includes Intentional Diversity, College Readiness, Career Readiness, Global Readiness, Community involvement, and Student Wellness. She couldn’t do this with her current operating budget alone or even with the help of the impressive fundraising her school community already conducts. The US Department of Education offers a Charter School Program grant that would make her wish come true by awarding up to $1.25 million to expand into an innovative high school. (If you would like to learn how we can help make your school dream come true, email me at

To start the grant application process, Dr. Moss did what any strategic leader does, she assessed her various resources. She has a talented and capable team, and she is an accomplished leader of other innovative schools and the co-author of How to Innovate: The Essential Guide for Fearless School Leaders. Even with all these people and all of these skills and experiences, she knew that to be awarded the money, Charlotte Lab needed help to write this grant and to write it properly. After all, they still have a school to run.

Dr. Mary Moss reached out to see if I could help. Lab needed a project leader who could dedicate one hundred percent of her time to the grant, and she needed a project leader with grant writing expertise and experience. Since I am a former charter school leader and a grant writer whose school was awarded this same grant 3 years prior, Mary was confident that I was the project leader and writer that Lab needed.

”We need someone to keep us moving and keep us on time,” Dr. Moss said in our first meeting. I said, “Not a problem,” and that evening, I mapped out a plan and sent it to Mary for approval.

She accepted the plan, and we were off to the races. We had three short weeks to write a grant that would end up being 47 pages long, not including the 126 page-long appendix.

Do It

The Charlotte Lab team was a dream to work with. They completed tasks before deadlines; they asked thoughtful questions; and they tackled tasks outside their comfort zone. For example, getting letters of support from busy people in three quick weeks seemed like an impossible task. They asked for help, so I gave them a template. The Lab team got to work, and they knocked this task out of the park. In that short time, they collected 12 letters of recommendation, including letters from Congresswoman Dr. Alma Adams; President and CEO of Discovery Place, Catherine Horne; the Director of the Office of Charter Schools, Dave Machado; Charlotte Lab parents, Mr. and Mrs. Shweta Mehta; and the Managing Partner of Innovative Schools, Scott Benson. It seemed as if the entire city of Charlotte was cheering for Charlotte Lab to get this grant.

When everything was ready, I pushed the submit button and called Mary. “It's done. Now we wait.” We were first told that award notification would be made at the end of August; then it changed to mid-September; finally, we were told that notification would come by the end of September. On September 27th, Mary sent me a text, “Great news! Lab has been awarded $1.25 M dollars!” They opened the doors to their high school in August 2020.

What About You?

Is there a project you’d like funded for your school? Do you have a wish for your school that you’d like to work on? If you'd like expert assistance in grant management and writing, email me at I'd love to help your school's dreams come true!

This blog was written by Katy Ridnouer, M.Ed., Grant Writer, Virtual Assistant Principal, and School Start-Up Specialist with KLR Partners. If you found this content valuable, please share it.

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If you want to explore grant-writing opportunities or other areas of school leadership, contact Katy at today!

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