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Magna Awards honors innovative districts

The School Leaders Luncheon honored the winners of the 2017 Magna Awards on Saturday at NSBA’s annual conference.

Upper St. Clair School District, in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania, Piscataway Township Schools, in Piscataway, New Jersey, and Vancouver Public Schools, in Vancouver, Washington, are the grand prize winners in awards program sponsored by the National School Boards Association’s flagship magazine, American School Board Journal. The Magna Awards recognize school districts and their leaders taking bold and innovative steps to improve the lives of their students and their communities.

An independent panel of school board members, administrators, and other educators selected the winners from more than 200 submissions.

This year’s three grand prize, 15 first place, and 15 honorable mention winners were selected from three enrollment categories: under 5,000 students, 5,000 to 20,000 students, and over 20,000 students. Each of the grand prize-winning school districts will receive a $5,000 contribution from Sodexo during a special presentation at NSBA’s annual conference, to be held March 25 to 27 in Denver.

The grand prize winning programs:

• The under 5,000 enrollment category: SHOP@USC (Showing How Opportunity Pays at Upper St. Clair) is a pioneering, student-run business, which operates through the collaboration between high school students with significant disabilities and their same-age peers without disabilities. Within SHOP, students produce and sell greeting cards, business cards, signs/banners, laser-engraved items, and USC spirit wear merchandise. Beyond the work training opportunities, the program promotes inclusion and friendship among the high school students who attend the classes.

• The 5,000 to 20,000 enrollment category: The Piscataway school board’s monthly Saturday book club discussions sparked this districtwide character education program and school climate initiative. The district encourages teachers and administrators to explore partnerships with other educational institutions and business entities to offer programs that go beyond traditional school experiences. Each school is encouraged to build an Inspire-infused character education program and the staff responded with enthusiasm. Throughout the year, music and art programs and essay contests follow the “You, I, We Inspire” theme.

• The over 20,000 enrollment category: Vancouver Public Schools established Family-Community Resource Centers at high-poverty schools in 2008. The centers, staffed by full-time coordinators, provide students and their families with much-needed housing resources, utility assistance, transportation, in-school dental care, in-school mental and behavioral health care, in-school fresh food pantries and weekend food backpacks, and clothing, shoes, hygiene, and cleaning items. The Mobile Family-Community Resource Center is an effort to expand services to needy students at more affluent schools without these centers. A coordinator drives a colorful van and delivers food, clothing, and other items to these students and schools.

In addition to the ASBJ special section, the districts’ winning entries will be posted at www.nsba.org/asbj.

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