Jay Science Academy principal named 2015 Innovator of the Year

August 4, 2015

For Jay Sumpter, Principal of the Jay Science and Engineering Academy, leading students down the path of innovation in STEM fields is reward enough. But, in front of several hundred of his peers at the annual Administrator Institute, Sumpter was named the recipient of the 2015 Ed Rawlinson Innovator of the Year award. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.)

“It’s not really about me,” Sumpter says. “Everything is a team effort and this award is really for all of us and speaks to the innovative nature of our staff and students.”

The honor was presented by the award’s namesake, former NISD Superintendent Ed Rawlinson and Northside Education Foundation (NEF) President Wade Cleary.

Award namesake and former NISD superintendent Ed Rawlinson presents the Innovator of the Year Award to Jay Sumpter.

Sumpter received the award for promoting academic research as a critical component of the magnet school’s instructional program. All 750 students undertake some form of academic research each year which provides real-world learning experiences and prepares them for success in higher education and their professional careers.

“There’s no ceiling on what students can accomplish at the Jay Science and Engineering Academy,” Sumpter says. “We create the expectation that students are going to do great things and we get out of their way. Very few schools across the country focus on academic research to this extent but the skills our students cultivate – problem-solving, academic writing – are going to be valuable in any profession they choose.”

The Jay Science and Engineering Academy is a magnet school located on the Jay High School campus. Under Sumpter’s leadership, the Jay Science Academy hosts arguably the largest school science fair in the state each December. Participation at the fair has tripled since he became principal five years ago. Last year, more than 600 high school students competed along with approximately 30 middle school students.

Sumpter has cultivated relationships and recruited professionals from STEM fields to serve as judges. This year’s school science fair is scheduled for Saturday, December 5 and Sumpter would love to have more than 300 judges volunteer to participate.

Jay Science Academy students have earned millions of dollars in scholarships and the right to participate in fairs on the national and international level. St. Mary’s University and The University of the Incarnate Word have provided over $500,000 in scholarships awarded at the school fair. Some students have even earned patents and had their work published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

“I’m impressed with how successful he has been in getting professionals in STEM fields involved in developing curriculum and improving student outcomes at the Jay Science and Engineering Academy,” says Dr. Brian T. Woods, NISD Superintendent. “He is also highly involved with the Jay HS community and always attends events and supports students in activities outside the classroom.”

Sumpter’s efforts have also led to internships and mentorship opportunities for students.

“Jay really believes that our job as educators is to encourage students to reach their full potential,” says Gretchen Catron, Jay Science Academy Vice Principal. “He has poured his life’s work into the students that come through the doors at the Jay Science Academy and is constantly thinking of new ways to help them discover their passions.”

Sumpter has been on the faculty at the Jay Science and Engineering Academy since the magnet school opened in 1997, serving as teacher and Assistant Director, before being named Principal in 2010.

From left to right: Superintendent Brian Woods, former superintendent Ed Rawlinson, Jay Sumpter, and NEF President Wade Cleary.

The Innovator of the Year award is administered annually by the Northside Education Foundation (NEF) to one of NISD’s 14,000 employees whose creative idea is successfully implemented and can be easily adopted by other schools or for wider use. Nominations are submitted from throughout the District, and a committee from NEF selects a winner from those nominations.

Past winners have included Anthony Jarrett, 2014; Landa Rodgers, 2013; Linda Zarakas, 2012; Kerry Haupert, 2011; Robert Harris, 2010; Jonathan Dale, 2009; Dr. Phil Linerode, 2008; Windy Barker, 2007, Debbie Merritt, 2006; Millie Linares, 2005; Jack Funkhouser, 2004; Math Department and Tim Boezinger, 2003; and Irene Alvarez, 2002.