> Affton School District

The Key Ingredients Necessary To Deliver Innovative Teaching And Learning To Students.

The pursuit of innovation through strategic opportunities and intelligent risks sounds like the opening line from an entrepreneur’s elevator pitch. In fact, it is how I explain to staff the key ingredients necessary to deliver innovative teaching and learning to students. As a school superintendent, I approach the deployment of educational programs and services more like an entrepreneur instead of a traditional educator.

Dr. Bracht, Brandon Dempsey, and the STL CAPS Global Business and Entrepreneurship student associates pose for a picture at the Affton Chamber of Commerce meeting

Education moves a bit slower than other sectors and often falls short when it comes to keeping up with the rate of change in the real world. This is why I chose to use a serendipitous collision to drive how I influence actions within the educational system. That chance encounter with a local entrepreneur outside of the educational sphere not only helped launch a groundbreaking educational program, it empowered me to immerse myself in the St. Louis innovation community.


The chance encounter at a local entrepreneur meeting was with Brandon Dempsey. It turned out to be serendipitous because he is a resident in the school district where I serve as superintendent. Brandon and I worked closely to launch the first educational program of its kind in the area, the St. Louis Centers for Advanced Professional Studies (STL CAPS). STL CAPS provides juniors and seniors in high school the ability to fast-forward beyond college to test-drive their future in high-skill, high-demand careers. Instead of learning in a traditional classroom, student associates are immersed in the real world that includes small business incubators and medical centers as well as technology and engineering companies. Students complete projects directly from business and industry partners while developing their own solutions and designs to the most pressing industry needs.


The frequent interactions with Brandon, and other entrepreneurs and innovators across St. Louis, influenced the way I lead the Affton School District. I take action quicker, embrace change, and view failure as part of the learning and growth process. I share these lessons with all staff members. I have given them permission to fail in their pursuit of innovative teaching and learning. I have been inspired to make innovative teaching and learning the foundation of the district’s strategic plan. The three focus areas of academic excellence, creative problem solving, and social and emotional learning provide coherence across the school district.


Dr. Bracht with Affton School District staff and STL CAPS business partners honored for Fostering Regional Cooperation at the FOCUS St. Louis What’s Right with the Region Awards ceremony.

The confidence to move fast and quickly scale up educational programs and services has separated the Affton School District as an innovative educational leader. Each year we welcome hundreds of visitors from other school districts. We have been among the first in the state to implement selective Advanced Placement programs. In addition, the past two years Affton is the only district in the state to have all schools earn Distinguished designation from Project Lead the Way for equity and access to a nationally recognized STEM curriculum. Affton High School was recently named the 9th best high school in the state by US News and World Reports. I have made it my personal mission to take Affotn beyond standardized test scores to deliver a more relevant and balanced educational experience…beginning in pre-school! The goal is to develop an internal accountability system that is relevant, responsive, and personalized while being able to withstand any external accountability measures the state or federal government throws our way.


FOCUS St. Louis What’s Right with the Region Honoree for Fostering Regional Cooperation
Featured Chapter in Designing Successful Systems: Stories of Change
University of Missouri–St. Louis Education Entrepreneur in Residence (EdPreneur) Graduate
Venture Café Panelist – Arts/Education/Innovation/Economics
Education Plus Featured Innovator – Annual Legislative Breakfast

Affton School District

Submit your Innovation Story

Join and network with a global community of innovators  by sharing your success story with the world.



Our promise: we dislike spam as much as the next person, and promise never to break your trust in us. We will never sell data – this is only used for the INNOVATE® Newsletter