Magnet Schools of America Announces 2013 National Award Winners

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Magnet Schools of America (MSA), the national association for magnet and theme-based schools, announced the recipients of its 2013 national awards in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 6, 2013. During the 31st National Conference on Magnet Schools, which was hosted by Tulsa Public Schools, the association honored the nation’s best magnet principal, teacher, and school.

Magnet Schools of America (MSA), the national association for magnet and theme-based schools, announced the recipients of its 2013 national awards in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 7, 2013. During the 31st National Conference on Magnet Schools, which was hosted by Tulsa Public Schools, the association honored the nation’s best magnet principal, teacher, and school. “MSA national teachers and principals were appropriately recognized on National Educator Day to recognize their accomplishments and leadership within the magnet school community,” said MSA Executive Director, Scott Thomas. “These teachers and principals are committed individuals who strive daily to bring innovation, excellence and equity to their schools. MSA is proud to commend them and share in their work.”

Kathleen Decker, of Walter Bracken STEAM Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada, was named the National Principal of-the-Year. Tere Pujol-Burns, from Sunset Elementary School in Miami, Florida, was named the National Teacher-of-the-Year. Hanes Magnet Middle School, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is the 2013 National Magnet School of the Year.

2013 National Principal of-the-Year

Kathleen Decker, Walter Bracken STEAM Academy, Clark County Public Schools, Nevada

Kathleen Decker, principal at Walter Bracken STEAM Academy in Las Vegas, has developed an effective magnet program that transformed the school completely. When Ms. Decker was appointed principal in 2001, Walter Bracken was one of the lowest performing schools in the district. This year, the award-winning program has received High Achievement status from the state of Nevada for Adequate Yearly Progress and ranked among the top 5% of all schools in the district. Walter Bracken offers a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM).

Over the more than ten years she has led the school, Ms. Decker has focused on sustainability to ensure the school’s mission and vision live long past her tenure. She has established community partnerships, constructed outdoor gardens, refreshed the school building with colorful murals, developed an onsite bank for students, and installed learning labs to successfully create an environment that is appropriate for theme-based learning. Magnet Schools of America is delighted to honor Principal Kathleen Decker for her outstanding leadership of Walter Bracken STEAM Academy in Clark County, Nevada.

2013 National Teacher of-the-Year

Tere Pujol-Burns, Sunset Elementary School, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Florida

Tere Pujol-Burns, who has been a magnet teacher for 26 years, is the Lead Teacher of the International Studies Magnet Program at Sunset Elementary in Miami. She teaches students in kindergarten to fifth grade.

Ms. Pujol-Burns has united a diverse group of learners to work towards a common goal in several ways. She designed and implemented People to People International’s Change for Change community service initiative. This program allowed the school to raise funds to support kangaroo adoption, rain forest preservation, Save the Waves Coalition and UNICEF. Of all her efforts at community building, Ms. Pujol-Burns views Multicultural Student Exchange Program as her greatest contribution. She designed the program to eliminate minority group isolation and allow students from diverse backgrounds opportunities to develop friendships. Magnet Schools of America is pleased to honor Lead Magnet Teacher Tere Pujol-Burns for her outstanding teaching at Sunset Elementary School in Miami, Florida.

2013 National Magnet School Merit Award Winner

Dr. Ronald P. Simpson Distinguished Award, sponsored by American Education Solutions
Hanes Magnet Middle School, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Public Schools, North Carolina

The Hanes Magnet Middle School, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, received the Dr. Ronald P. Simpson Distinguished Merit Award. Given annually to the nation’s top magnet school, the award commemorates the organization’s founding member Dr. Ronald P. Simpson. It includes a $5,000 prize, sponsored this year by American Education Solutions.

Hanes Magnet Middle School offers a rigorous academic foundation for adolescent students to excel in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Real-world connections are made in all classes, including projects that ask students to design shoes that convert from high heels to flats, as well as one in which they are expected to design a bridge to connect multiple sections of the city. Hanes’ STEM project-based learning design process takes place throughout the curriculum as well as in their extra-curricular activities. At Hanes, everything is STEM, screaming the theme of this magnet school.

Hanes has been honored with eleven consecutive years of expected academic growth in the North Carolina ABC accountability model and has been a school of High Growth for six of the last eight years. Magnet Schools of America is thrilled to honor Hanes Magnet Middle School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for excellence as a magnet school.

Additional National Merit Award Winners:

National merit awards are given to magnet schools that demonstrate a commitment to high academic standards, curriculum innovation, successful desegregation and diversity efforts, and strong parent and community involvement. To be considered for a merit award, member schools must submit an application that is scored by a panel of educators.

  •     Herbert A. Ammons Middle School (Miami-Dade County, Florida) received the Dr. Donald Waldrip Award. Named after MSA’s first Executive Director, the award includes a $2,500 prize, sponsored this year by Magnet Schools of America.
  •     Mabel Hoggard Magnet School (Las Vegas, Nevada) received the DKH Consulting Services Elementary School of Merit Award and a $2,500 prize.
  •     The Center for Creative Arts (Chattanooga, Tennessee) received a Special Recognition Award and a $2,500 prize from American Education Solutions.
  •     Springfield Central High School (Springfield, Massachusetts) received the New & Emerging Magnet Award of $1,000, sponsored this year by Hogan Lovells, LLC.

To see a full list of the 2013 Magnet Schools of America awardees, including Schools of Excellence and Distinction, and Regional Principals and Teachers of-the-Year, please visit:

National Awardee Profiles

Hogan Lovells New and Emerging Merit Award
Springfield Central High School, Springfield Public Schools, Massachusetts

Springfield Central High School has been a magnet school for advanced studies and the arts since receiving a Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant in 2010. Central’s rapidly expanding Arts program includes new arts and dance courses that are integrated into the core curricula, the creation of a marching band, and new partnerships with the Shakespeare Fall Festival and Drama Studio. Since changing its status to a magnet school, Central has combined effective instructional practices with the use of extensive data sources and seen a dramatic increase in the number of Black and Hispanic students enrolling and succeeding in Honors, Pre-AP and Advanced Placement courses.

DKH Consulting Services Elementary School of Merit Award
Mabel Hoggard Magnet School, Clark County Public Schools, Nevada

Mabel Hoggard Magnet School, featuring a science and math theme, has the distinction of being the first elementary magnet school in the Clark County Public School district. It lives by the saying, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Anything given to the school is recycled for use in their academic program, from snakes for their “real” zoo to animal hides for their authentic museum.

Mabel Hoggard is supported by the Foster Grandparents Program, which promotes cross-generational bonds between elementary school students and senior citizens. Its strong community support has allowed the school to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in all areas since the 2005-2006 school year. Mabel Hoggard also is classified as a high achieving school and has been recognized as a “Five Star” school based on the Clark County School District’s School Performance Framework.

Dr. Donald Waldrip Award, Sponsored by Magnet Schools of America
Herbert A. Ammons Middle School, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Florida

The Herbert A. Ammons Middle School offers an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program. It has students with family backgrounds from around the world including Haiti, India, Panama, Turkey, and Venezuela. Herbert Ammons was nicknamed “The Little Portable That Could” after being moved in 1998 to a facility composed entirely of modular classroom buildings as the result of a hurricane. Despite the modest environment, the school has aimed for and achieved a high level of excellence.

The commitment of the faculty and staff is evident in everything they do. They work longer hours to make sure the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program succeeds beyond its expectations and collaborated with the District to add a goal used citywide as part of their district teacher evaluation system. It comes as little surprise that Herbert Ammons has been rated an “A” school by the state of Florida for twelve consecutive years and has received the Five Star School Award for Parent and Community Partnerships since 1998.

Special Recognition Award, Sponsored by American Education Solutions
Center for Creative Arts (CCA), Hamilton County Schools, Tennessee

The Center for Creative Arts is a dedicated fine arts magnet school that serves almost 600 students in grades 6 through 12. As celebrated in its motto, CCA is a place where “the arts and academics share center stage.” The school has launched many “stars,” including the “Choo Choo Kids” and a published author.

In 2012, CCA’s graduation rate was 100%, and all its graduates were admitted to colleges. Most of its graduating seniors also received scholarships, totaling $1.2 million. The passion and dedication of the faculty and staff combined with the high expectations for all students resulted in Chattanooga Center for the Arts being included in the top 5% of all high schools in Tennessee for exceptional academic accomplishments.

Press Contacts:

Magnet Schools of America                    
John Laughner                            
Legislative and Communications Manager            

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