Magnet Schools of America Newsletter

August 2016
Maintaining the Momentum

When you're building a company, you need to continually strengthen every component - finance, strategic partnerships, executive team, and relationships with every last constituency.

Michael J. Saylor, President and CEO of MicroStrategy

I would like to take this opportunity to express my sheer excitement, joy and, yes, a little anxiety in taking the helm as President of Magnet Schools of America (MSA). "We have come a long way baby...." and I am so fortunate to follow in the footsteps of such great leaders. My mantra for this year is MAINTAINING THE MOMENTUM

Our accomplishments are many and we are constantly growing our organization to meet the needs of our magnet community and continuing to be a viable player in the ever-changing landscape of CHOICE in our public schools. MSA has had a busy summer working on our strategic plan, updating our by-laws and policies and procedures, convening our Project Workgroups (PWG), and launching our Magnet Certification process, just to name a few. 

Those of you who know me, know I am all about relationships. I never meet a stranger and I value diversity in all aspects of my life. Without this, all else fails. Relationships are the key to success and understanding, and making a difference in whatever we strive to achieve. In a time where there is so much misunderstanding, we need to focus on our likenesses not differences and seek to build relationships. This has been my passion throughout my life and career as an educator and I have always lived by the saying, "they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Although somewhat cliché, its truth makes it no less valuable to our success in making a difference in the lives of our students and others we touch. 

As we begin this new school year, there will be many occasions to build on our existing relationships and form new ones. My school district kicked off the 2016-17 school year with a powerful theme honoring and celebrating diversity in our community and focusing on understanding the individual needs of all students by building relationships first. MSA provides the leadership and tools necessary for success in these endeavors. 

As you begin this year, I encourage you to visit our website and take advantage of all the outstanding offerings MSA provides through our National Institute for Magnet School Leadership (NIMSL), ongoing webinars, conferences and events, legislative outreach, and national awards programs. I also urge you to review the Mission Statement and Five Pillars of MSA to help you provide exceptional and equitable opportunities for your students, to engage your communities and elected leaders, and build those everlasting relationships. 

To borrow from Maya Angelou, "My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." 

I invite each and every one of you to join me in taking an active role in MSA and lending your "voice" to our continued growth.

Best regards,

Sara Wheeler

President, Magnet Schools of America

Fall Technical Assistance Conference

Designing for Sustainability

The Capital Hilton

Washington, DC

October 9-11

Join us for our annual fall conference in the nation's capital this October. The three day technical assistance event will focus on best practices for sustaining innovative magnet school programs, strategic planning, and steps for designing creative theme-based curriculum and instruction. Attending the conference is a tremendous opportunity for schools and districts to constructively brainstorm, gather practical ideas, network with other colleagues, and gain invaluable insight from leading magnet school experts and practitioners.

The fall conference will feature four distinct tracks:

Magnet Entrepreneurship: Aspiring models of innovative school plans and approaches to teaching and learning. 

Strategic Opportunities: Flexibility and creative funding sources towards creating/sustaining a healthy, and rigorous magnet program/school.

Strengthen the Learner Experience: Developing quality theme-based curriculum to support your theme that ensures rigor, deep engagement and return on investment.

Certification - Standards of Excellence: Deeper examination of the national standards; strategic planning for current and future certification candidates.

Register now. The early bird rate ends September 12.

Flying Colors

A new monthly column focusing

MSA member stories

How Going 'All In' on a Theme Makes for a Joyful and Fun Learning Experience at Douglas Elementary

Derek Burns, the principal at Douglas Creative Arts and Sciences Magnet Elementary School, insists that, "If you don't go all in, it's not going to work." The "it" he is referring to here is Douglas' magnet theme, the creative arts and sciences. Mr. Burns is heading into his third year at Douglas and he believes that allowing his faculty and staff the freedom to be creative, and modeling a strong commitment to infusing Douglas' creative arts and sciences theme into everything they do, are the keys to building and sustaining a successful magnet school. Douglas earned the most prestigious award given by MSA earlier this year, the Dr. Ronald P. Simpson Distinguished Merit Award for embodying all of MSA's Magnet School Pillars: diversity, innovative curriculum and professional development, academic excellence, high quality instructional systems, and family and community partnerships. 

I took the time to have a conversation with Mr. Burns as well as Ms. Heidi Bledsoe, a former teacher turned Magnet Coordinator at Douglas, about what makes Douglas thrive. There were several distinct areas to which they attributed Douglas' success over the course of our conversation: professional support and development for passionate faculty and staff, family and community involvement, and finally, pervasive theme integration inside and outside the classroom. These crucial ingredients make their magnet a playful and meaningful place for teachers, parents, and students alike to explore knowledge, experiment, and express themselves. 

Burns and Bledsoe are still a little new to Douglas, but they both agree that the school has always been staffed with passionate people. Burns believes that as a semi-new principal he's simply allowed his teachers a bit more flexibility and as a result, he's noticed that they have begun to flourish. His openness to creativity cultivates a healthy, idea-centric workplace. Douglas Creative Arts and Sciences Magnet is a school that encourages its teachers, as well as its students, to try new things on a daily basis. Keep Reading...

The Gift of Harmony

It is not too late for you to receive a GIFT for magnet and choice schools (pre-K to 6th grade). This fall, over 200,000 schools, in 21 states, will be using free training and classroom kits to develop social-emotional competencies that will carry students successfully through school and into adult years. This opportunity is made possible by a collaboration with Sanford Harmony and is aligned with our mission and with activities that promote student interaction. It was on exhibit in Miami and in our recent

e-Choice newsletters.

Florida's Shore and Riverhills, South Carolina's North Springs, and Connecticut's Breakthrough schools, all Merit School of Excellence award winners, have joined the Harmony journey! Connecticut's Breakthrough school, voted the top magnet school in 2015 and merit award winner in 2016, will blend their current initiatives with Harmony to emphasize problem solving, taking responsibility, and building integrity. 

Brian Druga, lead teacher at Shore Magnet School of the Arts, 2007 winner of the Donald Waldrip School of Merit, and seven merit awards in nine years is pleased that Harmony contains the tools for teachers to blend Shore's philosophy of emphasizing academic and artistic achievement and Harmony's building self-esteem for life-long learners. Riverhills Elementary in Hillsborough County Florida, 2016 New and Emerging Merit Award winner, will use the units in their pursuit of the Learner Profile. 

Hillsborough's Magnet Director Robert Cox says, "Harmony will help us build a continuum of services to promote vertical and horizontal teaching and learning as we strive to be competitive." Districts like Clark County School District in Nevada and Los Angeles Unified School District in California have adopted the Harmony program district-wide. 

The lead teacher at North Springs STEM program, Dr. Sally Catoe, hopes that Harmony activities will help them build a common language. Her school has seen a 60% decrease in referrals over the past five years, and they hope implementing Harmony will mean more males will be included in that decrease. This Richland Two school in South Carolina is a 2016 Merit School of Excellence winner, Distinction winner since 2012, and part of the first cohort for Magnet Schools of America's National Certification program. They are planning to use Harmony as evidence of meeting diverse needs. 

If you are interested in joining these schools, please contact National Institute for Magnet School Leadership (NIMSL) Director, Kelly Bucherie, at

Ethics education? In my classroom? 

By Lisa M Lee, Executive Director of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

We all make ethical decisions throughout our lives. Whether we are students or teachers, parents or grandparents, children or aunts and uncles, individuals or community members, we all face difficult decisions around what is the best course of action in a challenging situation. Should I share my toys with a classmate who wouldn't share with me? What should I do when I feel uncomfortable that my friends are teasing other kids? Should I enroll my child in a research study that is seeking a cure for a disease that affects her sister? Should I support a state referendum to limit access to certain medical procedures for poor persons on Medicaid? 

These are important decisions and we ought to know how to think about them. That is where ethics education comes in-ethics education helps us build the skills to reason through decisions that do not have a clear resolution, and that invoke deeply held values which sometimes conflict. And while we learn a great deal in elementary and secondary school, we learn very little about the ethical dimensions of our decision making. 

In May 2016, the US Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) released recommendations for foundational, broad-based ethics education at all levels, from preschool through postsecondary and professional school as part of a new report, Bioethics for Every Generation. The Bioethics Commission recognized the many obstacles teachers face in implementing ethics education-including parent and administration reluctance, lack of training for handling ethics discussions, and lack of time in an already packed curriculum.  

As a result, they recommended that all teachers be supported and trained to facilitate constructive bioethical conversations in their classrooms, regardless of subject matter, grade level, or student aptitude. 

The Bioethics Commission provides free educational materials and modules that can be downloaded and used (or adapted to fit any teacher's needs), each addressing one or more of essential ethics decision-making skills: identify an ethical or moral concern, articulate the concern in a way that is understandable to others, deliberate about possible solutions, and implement and evaluate the decision. Keep Reading... 

Do you have the right stuff?

A dynamic and driven school principal to lead Grades K-5 of New London's Language and Culture Pathway at C. B. Jennings Elementary School.

The candidate must have d
emonstrated successful teaching and leadership experience in Dual Language Education and International Education programs/instruction. They must also have knowledge of magnet school program development and implementation. Full Announcement...

An innovative, experienced and dynamic Executive Director of Talent and Human ResourcesThis person must have an understanding of best practices in human capital management and a minimum five years of leadership experience including supervision of public or private organizations with a significant number of employees. Full Announcement...

Support for Students and Educators 

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

Through its Field Trip Grants program, Target awards grants of up to $700 to K-12 schools nationwide to defray the cost of field trips. It is accepting grant applications between August 1- September 30, 2016.

Captain Planet Foundation Grants fund projects that provide hands-on environmental stewardship opportunities for youth and environment-based education programs. The foundation primarily makes grants to schools and organizations with an annual operating budget of less than $3 million. The maximum award is $2,500. The deadline to apply is September 30, 2016.

Kids in Need Foundation Teacher Grants provide educators with funding to purchase materials to conduct innovative classroom projects. Grant supporters include Jo-Ann Fabrics and Craft Stores, Elmer's, and Dollar General. The maximum award is $500. The deadline to apply is September 30, 2016.

The foundation is accepting is grant applications from pre-K-12 educators who need financial assistance to maintain or implement an arts education program in the 2017-18 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 packets will be accepted starting July 1. To be accepted, application packets must be postmarked no later than September 30, 2016

Through its Learning & Leadership program, the foundation makes awards of up to $2,000 to support the participation of public school teachers and public education support professionals in high-quality professional development experiences. It also awards grants of up to $5,000 to support group projects related to collegial study, including study groups, action research, lesson study, or mentoring experiences. Application Deadline October 15, 2016
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is accepting applications to its Connecting Mathematics to Other Subject Areas Grants for Grades 9-12 Teachers program, which supports senior high classroom materials or lessons that connect mathematics to other fields. Grants up to a maximum of $4,000 each will be awarded to persons currently teaching mathematics in grades 9-12. Application Deadline, November 4, 2016

The National Science Teachers Association, with support from the Shell Oil Company, is inviting nominations for the Shell Science Teaching Award, an annual program that recognizes an outstanding K-12 classroom science teacher who has had a positive impact on his or her students, school, and community through exemplary classroom science teaching.

The award includes a $10,000 cash prize and an all-expenses paid trip to attend NSTA's national conference; two finalists will also receive all-expenses-paid trips to the conference. Application Deadline January 6, 2017

American Electric Power (AEP) is accepting applications from pre-K-12 teachers for mini-grants in support of classroom projects. AEP will award grants of up to $500 for projects that promote science, mathematics, technology, electrical safety, the balanced study of energy and the environment, and energy efficiency. Applicants must live or teach in the AEP service area or in a community with a major AEP facility. Application Deadline: February 24, 2017

Magnets Making News 

At a roundtable panel Wednesday at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, one of the standout magnet schools that resulted from the state's landmark Sheff v. O'Neill settlement, Horton Sheff compared herself to a mother bear who is protective of her cubs. The education activist had quite the audience: U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

School leaders at Kenwood Leadership Academy Magnet School helped students snip the opening ribbon in the morning. It used to be Kenwood Elementary School. Along with a new name, the school will focus on building leadership skills in their students while they learn.

One of the nation's best math and science teachers educates first-grade students at Mather Heights Elementary School. President Barack Obama is honoring local teacher Andy Kotko with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the White House announced Monday. It's the highest recognition for the country's math and science teachers. 

Starting a new school can be scary and confusing for many students. There are new buses to ride, new lockers and unknown faces in the hallways. Baltimore County Public Schools helped ease a few of those fears Monday, with an "Early Entry Day" that offered incoming sixth- and ninth- grade students a chance to walk through their entire class schedules at their new schools.

Nestled high in El Sereno, by Ascot Hills Park, shaded by towering pines, is Woodrow Wilson High School, with 1600 students and, now, three LAUSD magnet schools. One is for police, one is for law, and - maybe most appropriate given our new normal year-round wildfire season - a brand new magnet school for firefighters.

A California-based educational-advocacy group has filed a federal lawsuit charging that Connecticut's restrictions on magnet and charter schools harm city children and violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.


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In this Issue
How you can help the flood victims in Baton Rouge  

Magnet Schools of America would like to express its sympathy to those impacted by the floods in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

If you would like to lend your support and make a donation to the schools and students in the area, 
please visit the Foundation for East Baton Rouge Parish School System.

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