When students worry about where they will sleep at night, they can’t concentrate on that math lesson. When students don’t have access to health care, an untreated illness could mean days out of the classroom. When students aren’t successful in traditional high schools, they are at risk of failing or dropping out.

The school leaders recognized by the 2020 Magna Awards program are doing whatever is possible to remove barriers to education for their vulnerable and underserved students. While they receive the awards, we know the real winners are the students and families in these communities.

The Magna Awards have been recognizing school board and school district excellence for more than 20 years. This is the third year that the Magna Awards have focused on equity and the efforts of districts to increase opportunities and achievement for children of color, children with disabilities, children from impoverished families, children with mental health issues, and children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning.

The determination to expand what is possible to serve their children is the hallmark of Magna Award winners. This year, the Grand Prize winners have demonstrated this quality many times over.

In Moreno Valley, California, the district leaders stepped in to help their homeless and struggling families with necessities: food, clothes, a laundry facility, and showers. The lack of these items was keeping students from homeless families from coming to school. Children and families in isolated areas in Wyoming now have a medical clinic and access to quality child care in Fremont School District #6. A team of administrators and teachers in Missouri’s Liberty Public Schools turned the alternative school model upside-down, creating a space where at-risk students can thrive.

The adults in these districts knew they couldn’t make sustainable reform in a vacuum. They reached out to their communities for help, and they looked inward, too, with training and services.

Our three Grand Prize winners, and the 15 first-place winners, flipped the status quo in their districts and made their students winners, too. I hope that you will get ideas and inspiration from their stories.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Until the next issue. . .

Around NSBA

a boy being tutored at a desk

Black Students in the Condition of Education 2020

The Center for Public Education selected relevant data from the Condition of Education to help school leaders not only monitor the educational progress of Black students, but also rethink what public schools can do better for Black students.