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 graphic displaying kids shouting into a megaphone, giving a thumbs up and shouting, with the text "It's Time for a Great Idea!" displayed

It's Time for a Great IDEA!

Originally signed into law in 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the main federal statute governing special education for children. Today, IDEA protects the rights of over six million students with disabilities (approximately 13.5 percent of students) to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education in the least restrictive environment. NSBA urges the federal government to modernize and fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Act. We've recently launched a new initiative to highlight this critical need and help ensure our country’s students with disabilities receive the access and supports they need to succeed.

Portrait of Stuart Chip Slaven

NSBA Names Chip Slaven Chief Advocacy Officer

NSBA today announced that Stuart “Chip” Slaven has joined the association as Chief Advocacy Officer. Slaven will lead the Federal Advocacy & Public Policy group, which represents state school board associations and their members before the U.S. Congress and the Administration. Slaven is a government relations veteran who brings passion and extensive experience to drive our vision for public education forward.