Magnet Schools of America Newsletter
            May 2017
35th National Conference on Magnet Schools
Keynote speaker Manny Scott delivers a powerful message to the 35th National Conference. He plead with those in attendance to stay committed to their work because so many student lives depend on it!  
Magnet Schools of America (MSA) recently held its 35th National Conference in Los Angeles, California. Magnet school leaders and educators from across the country gathered to share their best practices and to recognize the nation's top magnet programs. Adding to the conference tapestry our host, Los Angeles Unified School District took center stage during school tours and magnificent student exhibitions and performances. 

Throughout the conference, MSA helped advance the field of magnet school education by providing training and support for district administrators, principals, and teachers during breakout sessions that focused on magnet theme development, project-based learning, Makerspace design thinking, arts integration, community partnerships, entrepreneurship, and much more.

The event culminated with a Red Carpet Afterparty where this year's Magnet Schools of America Principal of the Year, Teacher of the Year, and other top national awards were announced. In addition, MSA revealed that the 36th   National Conference will be held in Chicago in 2018! 

We would like to thank all of those who attended the national conference, Los Angeles Unified School District for hosting the event, and all our generous supporters and sponsors.

MSA is proud to recognize the 35th National Conference Supporters:

Charlotte's Idlewild Elementary
Named Nation's Top Magnet School

Idlewild Elementary in Charlotte, NC was named the recipient of the 
coveted Simpson  Award during the national conference in Los Angeles. 

During the 35th National Conference, Idlewild Elementary School in Charlotte, NC was named the recipient of the Dr. Ronald P. Simpson Distinguished Merit Award for 2017. This award is given annually to the nation's top magnet school and commemorates the organization's founding member Dr. Ronald P. Simpson. It also includes a $5,000 cash prize sponsored by American Education Solutions, Inc.

Idlewild Elementary is part of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and is a Title I Learning Immersion and Talent Development magnet program. It provides gifted and high ability learners from all racial, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds with the opportunity to maximize their potential. The school's motto is, "Empowering all to be extraordinary." This philosophy is evident throughout the urban school where multiculturalism is celebrated to reflect the diversity of its students who represent 40 different countries and speak 24 different languages.

Writing in praise of Idlewild Elementary, parent Kelly Barclay stated, "My husband and I chose Idlewild for our girls because we want our daughters to be engaged in a community that fosters an appreciation of all people and the unique gifts that each culture offers. I am continually impressed with the education offered by Idlewild Elementary, which challenges students and stretches them academically and relationally."

Accepting the award on behalf of the school and reflecting on the honor, Principal Larenda Denien stated, "We want to empower all our students to be extraordinary so they can achieve their potential, because without education they don't have a choice. We want to provide students with a choice and options so they can be successful in everything they do."

Clark County's Pat Skorkowsky Named
MSA Superintendent of the Year  

Pat Skorkowsky_ _left_ received the MSA Superintednent of the Year Award from President Sara Wheeler _right_
Pat Skorkowsky (left) receives the MSA Superintendent of the Year Award from President Sara Wheeler. 
As a result of his leadership at the national, state and local levels in advocating, developing, and supporting magnet schools, Magnet Schools of America was pleased to name Pat Skorkowsky from the Clark County School District in Nevada the 2017 Magnet Schools of America Superintendent of the Year. This annual award recognizes the important work of leadership within our school districts to keep magnet schools a priority in the portfolio of school choice options.

Superintendent Skorkowsky has led his school district since 2013 and has been an educator and leader in the district for 28 years. During his tenure as superintendent, he has supported the expansion of magnet schools in the district by 44%, which now educate 30,000 students across 36 schools offering 114 unique programs of study. Impressively under his leadership, the district has increased its high school graduation rate by 25%, and over the last two years, Clark County has received 49 Magnet Schools of America national merit awards.

Upon accepting the award, Superintendent Skorkowsky stated, "Our school district is fortunate to be able to offer the original form of school choice. Our magnet schools allow students to experience the loves of their lives and launch them on pathways that they never imagined." He added, "What happens daily in our classrooms is what makes the difference in the lives of students. My motto is every student, in every classroom, without exceptions, without excuses. That is what drives the work of our school district."

Miami-Dade County Public Schools
Recognized for Magnet Sustainability 

Last year's MSA Superintendent of the Year Alberto Carvalho accepts the Donna Grady-Creer Award.
We are excited to announce that Miami-Dade County Public Schools is the recipient of the 2017 Donna Grady-Creer District Award for Magnet Sustainability. This annual award acknowledges a school district that exemplifies a commitment to equity, excellence, diversity, as well as highly sustained support for magnet schools. It is sponsored by MSA's first president, Dr. Judith Stein. Donna Grady-Creer was one of the original founders of Magnet Schools of America. 

For more than 40 years,  Miami-Dade County Public Schools has been at the forefront of the choice movement in education. The  district's magnet program began in 1973 with the opening of the Center for the Expressive Arts. Under  the leadership of Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, the district has rapidly launched more than 109 new  magnet programs in the Miami area. In total, Miami-Dade County Public Schools now offers 375 magnet  school offerings.

Accepting the award on behalf of the school district, Superintendent Carvalho stated, "Embracing school choice in a public, transparent way that benefits all kids is the way forward for America. This is our space, public education is our business, we know how to do it better than anyone else, and we are not giving up ground. That is why we embrace choice and lead the nation."

South Bend's Thomas Sims Named
Magnet School Principal of the Year 

Principal Thomas Sims has led the dramatic turnaround of the Dickinson Fine Arts Academy in South Bend, Indiana. 
Magnet Schools of America is pleased to announce that Thomas Sims, Principal of Dickinson Fine Arts Academy in South Bend, Indiana is the 2017 National Magnet School Principal of the Year. 

Thomas Sims has been the principal of Dickinson for six years and has led the dramatic turnaround of this once failing school into a high performing Fine Arts and STEAM magnet. It has been recognized for achieving the highest academic gains of any school in the state and has been designated an "A" school by the state of Indiana. The intermediate center (serving grades 5-8) has also been selected as a Magnet Schools of America School of Excellence twice over the last three years.

His hard work is not only recognized by MSA, but parents from his community have noticed as well. Dickinson parent, Angela Hardrict, explains that, "For many years, Dickinson Intermediate School in South Bend would not have made my list of top school choices. However, five years ago, the school turned a corner in its direction under the leadership of then-new principal Thomas Sims. Principal Sims talked to the community...he involved parents, introduced new curriculum through the magnet program,
refocused efforts on core curriculum and worked to improve the morale of the teachers and staff...When the time came, the choice for my two children suddenly became much easier - Dickinson was at the top of our list."

In response to receiving the award Sims says, "Providing our South Bend families a high-quality public school choice that emphasizes academics, imagination in the classroom and adhering to a level of high expectations has proven that innovative magnet based schools can inspire children regardless of their demography. To have these efforts recognized by Magnet Schools of America affirms the decisions that we are making. We are ecstatic to receive this national recognition."

California Music Educator Named
Magnet School Teacher of the Year 

Anne Fennell was named the 2017 National Magnet School Teacher of the Year.
Magnet Schools of America is honored to announce that Anne Fennell from Vista Unified School District's Mission Vista High School in Oceanside, California is the 2017 National Magnet School Teacher of the Year. Through a competitive application process, Ms. Fennell was selected from a group of eight Regional Teachers of the Year from across the country. 

Ms. Fennell is a founding faculty member of Mission Vista High School, a dual magnet high school in Vista Unified School District. She is currently the Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair, teaches three levels of music
composition through technology and three levels of steel drum ensemble. As a classroom teacher, Anne Fennell focuses on educating the whole student. 

In her own experience as a student, Anne Fennell was told by a band teacher that music 'wasn't for her' and through this initial criticism Fennell persisted. This negative experience (and future positive experiences with teacher-mentors) inspired Ms. Fennell to never give up on any student. She says that, "...all students have the capacity to learn, and errors can be a point of growth, not an opportunity to quit."

Upon receiving the award, Fennell said, "I am truly honored to receive the Magnet Schools of America Teacher of the Year Award. As a magnet school teacher, I have had the opportunity to create innovative programs to engage students and to grow as an educator, which is directly related to the endless possibilities magnet programs provide. I love my students, their creativity and energy, and all that they strive to achieve every day. This award is truly a part of who they are and represents each of them as I am given the opportunity to facilitate their creative, academic, and personal growth."

A Win for Magnet Schools! 

In a major victory for magnet schools and Magnet Schools of America members, Congress passed a final FY 2017 appropriations bill that restores and increases funding to the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP).

The $1 trillion spending bill funds the federal government and all its agencies and programs for the remainder of the current fiscal year. The appropriations bill funds the MSAP program at $97.6 million - an increase of $1 million from the previous fiscal year. This funding will support the MSAP grant applications that were submitted last month for the first time under the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

"It's been an honor to represent magnet schools across the country in our meetings with members of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education," said MSA Executive Director Todd Mann. "We know this legislative victory would not have been possible without the emails, letters, meetings and phone calls made to Capitol Hill by our magnet school leaders and educators."

To see the final funding levels for U.S. Department of Education programs, please review this chart

Education Grants and Funding 

Money bag with dollar sign and money tree growing out of top isolated on white

Grants of up to $7,500 will be awarded in support of STEM programs that increase student interest and encourage more students to pursue a career in STEM-related fields. Grant funds may be used to purchase stipends for staff, field trips, travel expenses, tools/equipment needed to support a STEM environment, and curricula development, training, and/or retention.

To be eligible, programs must serve students in one of the following metropolitan areas: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, and/or New York City.

Application Deadline: May 26, 2017

Kinder Morgan Foundation supports K-12 programs that promote the academic and artistic interests of young people in cities and towns across North America where Kinder Morgan operates . Grants of up to $5,000 will be awarded for academic programs, including tutoring; arts; and environmental education programs. Application deadlines are the tenth of every other month beginning in January. 

NEA Foundation Learning and Leadership Grants -  The program provides grants to public school teachers and public education support professionals to fund participation in high-quality professional development experiences. The grant amounts are $2,000 for individuals and $5,000 for groups. Application Deadline: June 1, 2017

Crayola, in collaboration with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, is accepting applications for the 2017 Creative Leadership Grant program. The program will award up to twenty grants of $2,500 each for innovative, creative, leadership-building programs in elementary schools. In addition, each program will receive an in-kind grant of Crayola products valued at $1,000. Application Deadline: June 23, 2017 

The foundation is accepting grant applications from pre-K-12 educators who need financial assistance to maintain or implement an arts education program in the 2018-19 school year. Grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded to support new or evolving programs that integrate the arts into educational programming. Application Deadline: September 30, 2017

Toshiba America Foundation is accepting grant applications from K-5 grade school teachers for innovative science or math projects in their own classroom. The foundation awards individual grants of up to $1,000 in support of hands-on science or math education projects. Application Deadline: October 1, 2017 

Magnets in the News

Can magnet schools save public education in South Carolina?

Magnets gives students the chance to get good at something they really like. And, theoretically, the students improve their grades in other areas, including the core subjects of reading and math. But beyond helping students learn better, the great push for magnet instruction has a larger goal: It's the hope that customized instruction can help truly bolster, even "save," public education.

Pasadena Unified's Innovative STEM Programs Have Helped to Stabilize Declining Enrollment Rates

Pasadena Unified School District's innovative "STEM" programs that catapult students into advanced coursework at early ages and attract families to enroll their kids public schools with ambitious curriculum may be the the driving force that is keeping the District enrollment rates stabilized during a time when statewide numbers are dwindling.

Working to end the fresh water project in underdeveloped countries sounds like a daunting project. But two local eighth graders took it on and were proud to show off their results at the recent Project Based Learning Expo.

Cedar Rapids adds third magnet school, teachers notice better student behavior

A magnet school is meant to balance out poverty rates by providing unique classes and programs that attract students from different backgrounds. In Cedar Rapids, two of the magnet schools have already seen a shift in poverty rates.

Levin's journey on The Voice has opened doors

Ashley Levin's appearance on the television show The Voice might not have ended the way she hoped, but she said it did open some incredible doors and taught her a lot about herself, and the career she has chosen.

NH's only magnet school attracts attention

Jill Stanley graduated at the top of her class, but every day of school was a struggle. She excelled in high-level math, but found it took her longer to learn the concepts than her peers, possibly because of the style of instruction."Kids learn so differently," said Stanley, a Rochester resident and Massachusetts native. "It just didn't work well for me."

Four Steps to Transform School Culture Through Summer Reading

In my first week as an English teacher at an urban high school in the Nashville school district, I learned my department had already agreed that summer reading would only be assigned to the AP and honors students. It was my understanding that over the years, students had done less and less summer reading, to the point that teachers became frustrated and stopped assigning it.

How three schools creatively face the challenge of educating immigrant students

If you have paid attention to the school reform debate in recent years, you would be forgiven for thinking that public schools across the board are failing students and that schools that are struggling can only improve if they fire all of their staff, become a charter school or let the state take them over. It's not so.

Learning through song at Baldwin Arts and Magnet School

"Tomorrow's song is today's gift..." Those beautiful words are the motto for all choral classes at Baldwin Arts and Academics Magnet school, and they were coined by teacher Traci Fuller. Becoming an educator was the last thing Fuller thought she would do for a career.


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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.

Are you certified?
The National Institute for Magnet School Leadership is  accepting applications to participate in the Magnet Schools of America Standards of Excellence Certification Program.

Don't miss this chance to be recognized as one of the premier magnet schools
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Student Poster Contest Winner
We are happy to announce that the winner of the
9th Annual Magnet School Student Poster Contest is 
Rachel Johnston from Salk Middle School in
Elk River, Minnesota.  

 The winner of the poster contest was chosen by members of Magnet
Schools of America during the national conference. 

Please visit our  website to see the winners for each grade-l evel category. 

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