Magnet Schools of America Newsletter
October 2017
State and Local Leaders Promote Benefits
of  Magnet Schools During Fall Conference

Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Ed Graff and fellow education leaders address questions during the fall conference. 
This month Magnet Schools of America held its annual Fall Technical Assistance and Training Conference in Minneapolis-Bloomington, MN. The event attracted magnet school leaders and educators from across the country and featured informative discussions and sessions guided by the conference theme Magnets by Design
We invited many insightful presenters to share their vision and expertise developed from their own professional experiences. 

The Superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools, Ed Graff kicked off the conference and shared his firm belief that public education is the great equalizer in our society. He encouraged attendees to learn from each others successes and reflect on the challenge faced by all educators - How do we scale up best practices so that all students have equal opportunities? He emphasized the importance of magnet schools and pointed out that not all students learn the same and have different needs, which is why his district works to address the needs of all students collectively and individually.

Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota Commissioner of Education also shared her appreciation of magnet schools. She stated that compared to traditional schools magnet schools provide greater opportunities for students to experience and explore their passions and interests. She said that her favorite promise of magnets is that they "encourage connectedness and relevance for students," adding that, "magnet schools provide pathways to our children's dreams." 

Richfield Public Schools Superintendent Steven Unowsky (R) and MN Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius (L)
The Commissioner asserted that magnet schools also play a larger and more serious purpose than meeting the  individual needs of students or teachers. She said that, "magnet schools can be the hubs of our shared democracy and diversity as Americans. She continued, "the history of magnet schools to promote desegregation and serve as beacons of integrated learning is important to recognize and honor."

She added, "while our children are growing up in a world that is more connected, and growing more diverse and interdependent, schools are becoming more segregated. Now more than ever, we need strategies like magnet schools to bring us back together so we can build better understanding and greater relationships with one another in integrated learning environments where all feel welcome as valued members of our community." 

Superintendent of Richfield Public Schools, Steven Unowsky, echoed the sentiment of the Commissioner by sharing his success implementing the five pillars of magnet schools. He lauded the first pillar of diversity and commended magnet schools for their ability to integrate schools and neighborhoods and  provide choices to families and communities. 


MSA is proud to recognize our conference supporters: 
MSA National Awards Program 

Golden award star isolated on the white backgroundMagnet Schools of America's 
2017-2018 national awards season is here. Please review each of our programs below and start preparing a winning application now! 

All MSA members  are eligible to participate. Winners will be recognized at the 36th National Conference in Chicago, IL April 25-29, 2018.

The national merit awards program celebrates MSA membership schools through a competitive process. Open to members only, the awards provide an annual opportunity for schools to be recognized for what they have accomplished.

These awards are given to magnet schools that demonstrate high academic standards, curriculum innovation, successful school integration and diversity efforts, and the delivery of high-quality educational services to all students. 

There are two categories of merit awards: (1) Magnet Schools of Excellence, the most prominent merit award given to magnet schools, and (2) Magnet Schools of Distinction. The top rated magnet schools in the Excellence category are eligible to receive MSA's most prestigious awards including the Dr. Ronald Simpson Award, which includes a $5,000 cash prize, the Donald Waldrip Award, MSA Presidents Award, and others that recognize the nation's preeminent elementary, secondary, and new and emerging magnet schools.  

Application Deadline: Monday, November 28, 2017

National Magnet School Superintendent of the Year 

This annual award was created in 2015 and recognizes an exceptional superintendent that has embraced magnet schools as a priority in the portfolio of school choice options. This individual also demonstrates leadership at the national, state, and local levels in support of magnet schools.

Application Deadline: Monday, January 16, 2018  

This award was established in 2009 and recognizes a remarkable magnet school leader who has succeeded in providing innovative programs that promote equity, diversity, and academic excellence for all students. This individual will be chosen from a cohort of regional principals of the year.

To be selected as a regional magnet principal of the year, candidates must be nominated by their district level magnet director. Once nominated, candidates must submit a narrative application and recommendation letters.

Application Deadline: Monday, December 12, 2017 

The Magnet Teacher of the Year Award was established in 2010 and recognizes an extraordinary full-time teacher who exemplifies excellence in the classroom and is acknowledged by their peers, parents, and students for their contributions made to their profession. This individual will be chosen from a group of regional teachers of the year. 

Regional teachers of the year are selected from MSA's eight regions through a competitive application process. To be chosen, candidates must first be nominated by their district level magnet director. Once nominated, they are
asked to submit a narrative application that describes their professional and educational background, teaching philosophy, community and family engagement efforts, and successes in the classroom. 

Application Deadline: Monday December 12, 2017

Magnet Schools of America is proud to sponsor its 12th Annual National Student Poster Contest as part of the celebration of National Magnet School Month in February. We encourage all elementary, middle, and high school magnet students to participate. Certificates and cash prizes will be given to the top posters in each grade level category.  

Submission Deadline: Friday, January 22, 2018

Magnet School Principals' Secrets Revealed

Magnet schools have become both successful and popular because magnet school educators bring fresh, theme-based approaches to their classrooms and challenge students to meet higher standards-no matter their race or socioeconomic status. Magnet school leaders facilitate these triumphs and navigate the challenge of moving beyond the neighborhood school model by creating positive work environments for their faculty and staff, and promoting high-quality, interdisciplinary learning experiences for all students - worthy goals for any principal. 

As former magnet school principal Mary Jane Dann explains, "The initial leadership challenges I faced were ones that may be relatable for any principal starting at a new school. Getting to know your staff, and understanding how the school is currently operating and what systems are in place are paramount to mapping the road to improvement." 

The following are a few case studies of top performing magnet schools and wise advice on the topics of empowered leadership, contagious enthusiasm, and exploratory engagement from the principals who lead them. Keep Reading...

National Blue Ribbon Magnet Schools

We would like to congratulate the 21 magnet schools that were designated as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2017 by the U.S. Department of Education. National Blue Ribbon Schools are public and private K-12 schools that have demonstrated academic excellence or have made great strides in closing the achievement gap among students. These schools will be honored at an awards ceremony in Washington, DC in November.  This is the 35th year the Department of Education has recognized our nation's most outstanding schools through this program. 

"National Blue Ribbon Schools are active demonstrations of preparing every child for a bright future," said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to the honorees. "You are visionaries, innovators and leaders. You have much to teach us: some of you personalize student learning, others engage parents and communities in the work and life of your local schools and still others develop strong and forward-thinking leaders from among your teaching staff."

All National Blue Ribbon Schools fall into one of two performance categories:
  • Exemplary High Performing Schools - are among their state's highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or national tests.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools - are recognized for being the most effective at closing achievement gaps among subgroups of students over the past five years in their state.
We proudly acknowledge the seven members of Magnet Schools of America that received this prestigious designation:

Vintage S.T.E.M. Elementary Magnet School, Los Angeles Unified School District, CA Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet, East Baton Rouge Parish Schools, LA
Forest Heights Academy of Excellence, East Baton Rouge Parish Schools, LA  Austin Middle School, Galveston Independent School District, TX
Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy@ B.F. Darrell Middle School, Dallas ISD, TX Dallas Environmental Science Academy, Dallas ISD, TX 
Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School,
Dallas ISD, TX 

Houston Area Magnet Student
Honored at National Art Exhibition

Aldine ISD Magnet Graduate Jennifer Castillo's artwork was recognized in the nation's capital.
Jennifer Castillo (Senior 2017) from the Carver Magnet School of Visual Arts in the Al
dine Independent School District in Texas was among a group of students recently honored at an awards ceremony in Washingto n, DC as part of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and  the U.S. Department of Education's Student Art Exhibition. Jennifer and 29 other students from the Houston region were chosen for this exhibit from  the 8,000 student works  entered in  this competition.

The U.S. Department of Education's Student Art Exhibit Program features visual art created by students in U.S. schools and around the world. The program in collaboration with the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers provides students an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public place that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all.

Students view each others art displayed at the U.S. Department of Education headquarters.
The event included speeches by Jason Botel, USDOE Acting Assistant Se cretary  and Virginia McEnerney, Executive Director, A lliance for Young Artists and Writers. The students also each introduced themselves onstage and participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the exhibit.

Art.Write.Now.DC 2017-18 is presented in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, The President's Committee on Arts and the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The exhibition is on display from September 15, 2017 through July 2018.

USDOE Announces  Magnet Awards 
and New Grant Priorities 

The U.S. Department of Education has announced the newest cohort of Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grantees. These 31 school districts and one charter school network in 16 states will share approximately $91 million this fiscal year. This is the first round of grants awarded under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which allowed the department to take advantage of the new law to provide additional resources and flexibility to applicants.  

A substantial change under ESSA is the extension of the grant period from three to five years for those making progress toward achieving their performance goals. Other changes include increasing the maximum cumulative grant funding from $12 to $15 million; authorizing the use of MSAP funds to provide transportation services to students; and adding a socioeconomic integration component to the grant. You can see a full list of the MSAP award winners on the department's website.  

In other news, the U.S. Department of Education announced 11 new draft priorities that it plans to use when allocating $700 million in future competitive grants. Every administration releases its own set of priorities to indicate how it will review and score grant applications. For example, under the Obama Administration STEM programming and school integration were priorities in department-wide grant competitions.

Among the priorities released by Secretary DeVos are school choice, STEM education, computer science, literacy, school safety, parent and family engagement, and services for gifted and special needs students. The full list of priorities and guidance for providing feedback is included in the announcement listed in the Federal Register 

Superintendent Opening - New London 

New London, Connecticut is a small, vibrant community located on the Connecticut shoreline. The city encompasses approximately 6 square miles and has a population of just over 25,000 residents. 

New London Public Schools is in the final phase of its transformation to the first, and only, all-magnet school district in Connecticut. The district design includes four K-12 Magnet pathways serving all New London students and attracting students from over 40 surrounding communities. This transformation includes redesigning academic programs around the four themes: STEM, Arts, Leadership, and Language Culture (including dual language and international programming) magnet programs. 

Capital improvement projects are underway. New London Public Schools has four elementary buildings including two recently renovated K-5 campuses. The district will be transitioning to two campuses for grades 6-12 and is embarking on the construction of those middle-high school facilities: a north campus project at $98 million and south campus at $49 million.

The Board of Education is seeking a leader who can continue the district's work of transforming to an All-Magnet School district while addressing educational achievement for all students. Learn More...

Money for Magnets

business, money and office concept - smiling businesswoman in eyeglasses holding money bag with dollar NewSchools Venture Fund is accepting applications from teams of educators and entrepreneurs with bold ideas for reimagining pre-K-12 learning. The fund will award grants totaling up to $8 million for programs focused on creating innovative district and charter schools; building technology tools to better support student learning; and/or cultivating pipelines of diverse leaders in education. 

Funding will range between $50,000 and $200,000 and include participation in a cohort experience to help teams refine their designs and prepare for launch within the next one to two years. Initial submissions are due by January 12, 2018.

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is inviting applications from North Carolina public school teachers to its Promoting Innovation in Science and Mathematics (PRISM) Award program.  The annual PRISM Award provides public school teachers in the state with the opportunity to receive up to $3,000 in funding toward the purchase of STEM-related materials and up to $1,500 for any necessary training for those materials. Application Deadline: December 5, 2017

The Toshiba America Foundation is accepting applications from middle- and high-school teachers who are passionate about making science and mathematics more engaging for their students. Grant proposals for amounts of up to $5,000 are accepted on a rolling basis.

American Electric Power is accepting applications from pre-K-12 teachers for classroom projects during the 2018-19 school year.

Through the Teacher Vision grant program, AEP will award mini-grants of up to $500 for projects with an academic focus and a goal to improve student achievement. Priority will be given to projects that promote science, mathematics, technology, electrical safety, the balanced study of energy and the environment, and energy efficiency.

To be eligible, applicants must be a pre-K-12 teacher who lives or teaches in an AEP service area or in a community with a major AEP facility. 
Application Deadline: February 23, 2018

Technology and entertainment blog The Beacon is inviting submissions of technology-focused lesson plans for its Technology Teacher Grant competition.

Prizes of up to $1,000 will be awarded for lesson plans in any subject that teach K-8 students why technology is important (and how to use it). Plans must encourage participation and engagement with in-class demonstrations and hands-on learning opportunities. Application Deadline: December 9, 2017

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation is accepting applications from public schools and public libraries anywhere in the U.S for its mini-grants program. Grants of up to $500 will be awarded to help educators create special activities outside the standard curriculum and make time to encourage their students. Application Deadline: March 31, 2018

Magnets Making News 

Governor visits AHS for announcement of nearly $14.8 million magnet school grant

Paid over a five-year period, the funds will be used for the district's Montage Project, an innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program which will continue the STEM thread from the district's elementary schools to College Hill Middle School, North Heights Junior High and Arkansas High.

The high school in Oceanside has been honored with a national certification as a demonstration magnet school - the only one in California. Mission Vista is a dual-magnet school, with programs focusing on arts and communication, and science and technology. 

Among all the noise coming out of a welding shop students are learning a trade. Just a few classrooms away at Tampa Bay Tech Nathan Gonzalez is doing a different type of work. "It's a magazine ad for an elderly community; 55 plus," says Gonzalez. This senior takes part of just one of 18 career-focused programs at one of several magnet schools in Hillsborough County.

Local kids with a passion for math and science have new options, thanks to a $7.8 million federal grant awarded to Albuquerque Public Schools. The money will be used to convert Mission Avenue Elementary School, Garfield Middle  School  and Valley High School into "Engineering for the Future" schools with hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum.

Adults have long had websites aplenty to find out more information about Louisiana's Capital city. Now kids have one of their own. It's called Students in Southeast Middle's magnet program, known as DATA, short for Digital Arts & Technology Academy, led the way in filling out the website.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, joined by administrators and staff from LEARN and schools in Groton, Norwich, New London and East Hartford, cheered on Friday afternoon the announcement of a nearly $15 million federal grant that will help create intradistrict magnet schools and bring educational programs to the region. 

Jackie Barone,  principal  of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's Piedmont Middle School, has been named 2017 administrator of the year by the National Association for Gifted Children.  "One of the most remarkable environments I have ever visited is Piedmont IB Middle School," said Sneha Shah-Coltrane, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's top official for education of gifted students.

Four Wake County magnet schools will share $14.9 million federal grant

"Our magnet and curriculum enhancement programs have been pillars of innovation for our district and have set a national standard for excellence," Superintendent Jim Merrill said in a written statement. "We continue to seek and discover ways to offer the best choices possible for our community."

* Do you have exciting news to share about the magnet schools in your community? Please send them to:


Stay Connected!

Like us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   View our profile on LinkedIn   View on Instagram

Schools Students Want. Schools Students Need. 

MISSION: Providing leadership for high quality innovative
instructional programs that promote choice, equity, diversity, and academic excellence  for all students.

Quick Links
Save the Date
National Policy
Training Conference

February 7-9, 2018

Marriott Marquis
Washington, DC

Renew Your
MSA Membership!

Magnet Schools of America memberships expired on June 30, 2017.

To continue receiving important member benefits, like participating in our awards program, please make sure to renew your membership for this 
school year!

To renew, email MSA's Membership Coordinator, Faith Goodwin at

Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship

High-achieving high school seniors are eligible for this scholarship. Recipients are awarded up to $40,000 per year to complete their bachelor's degree, in addition to opportunities for internships, study abroad, and graduate school funding.

The application for the College Scholarship Program is currently open. The deadline for all materials is November 14, 2017.

Follow us!



Like our Facebook 

page to receive important news and information from the magnet community


Tweet with us 






Share your photos with 

us on Instagram





Network with us by 

visiting our company 

page on Linkedin