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Principal Spotlight: How Joe Simo Increased His School’s Project Funding on DonorsChoose 20X

Centennial Middle School Principal Joe Simo is dedicated to helping his teachers and students access the most learning resources possible.


Since Joe Simo joined Centennial Middle School in Colorado as principal in 2013, he’s taken a “relationships first” approach to leadership. In addition to building strong ties among and with his staff, Joe wanted to make sure that the 620 diverse students attending Centennial Middle School had the resources they needed to thrive academically and socially. By focusing on the school’s dedication to character development, teacher professional development, and ensuring teachers could access as many resources as possible, Joe turned Centennial Middle School into the “Colorado school to watch.”

Removing Roadblocks to Innovation

Joe sees one of his primary responsibilities as removing roadblocks for teachers, and often those roadblocks come in the form of a lack of funding or resources. As a school of innovation, teachers at Centennial Middle School have some extra freedom to create and experiment in the classroom, but with a district-set budget, there isn’t always the funding to try everything teachers dream up. Instead of turning down those ideas, Joe directs his teachers to DonorsChoose.

By using DonorsChoose, Ms. Hutchel was able to get basic kitchen supplies so her students could learn about cooking and healthy eating, while Mr. Thompson received DIY drone kits so his students could flex their coding and engineering skills. These are just two examples of the nearly 20 classroom project requests funded from Centennial Middle School teachers this past school year.

Supporting Teachers' Professional Growth

In addition to getting the most learning resources possible, Joe Simo is also dedicated to helping his teachers access the professional development they need to grow and thrive as educators. In addition to the 20% of his budget dedicated to teacher professional development, Joe also encourages teachers to use DonorsChoose to fund PD experiences.

Increasing Funding Schoolwide through DonorsChoose

By supporting teacher-fueled innovation and encouraging the use of DonorsChoose, Joe has increased Centennial Middle School’s classroom project funding from just $1,200 before he started to more than $23,000 today. By tapping into the national network of donors, companies, and foundation partners who give through DonorsChoose, Centennial Middle School teachers have been able to give their students more than they ever could have using just a district budget.

Since Joe Simo took over as principal, every project created by a teacher at Centennial Middle School has been fully funded. Joe has received recognition as Colorado Middle School Principal of the Year and as Secondary School Principal of the year by CASE, the Colorado Association of School Executives.

Read how more principals like Joe have used DonorsChoose to support their teachers in the Principal Toolkit co-published by DonorsChoose and NASSP, and see how you can help your teachers get more resources for students.

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