Friday, March 16, 2018

Illinois district receives top NSBA award

Leyden High School District 212 is featured on the cover
of the April 2018 American School Board Journal for its
Magna Award-winning efforts to advance student equity.
Leyden High School District 212, Franklin Park, is a grand prize winner in the 24th annual Magna Awards program presented by NSBA’s American School Board Journal, and is also featured on the cover of that national magazine.

The Magna Awards recognize boards of education for taking bold and innovative steps to advance public education. This year’s awards, announced on March 12, honor school districts across the country for programs that advance equity and remove barriers to achievement for vulnerable and under-served students. An independent panel of school board member and administrators was selected to judge the 2018 awards, representing large, small, rural, and urban districts.

This year’s three grand prize winners, along with numerous first place, and honorable mention winners, were selected from three enrollment categories: under 5,000 students, 5,000 to 20,000 students, and more than 20,000 students. The district was chosen a grand-prize winner in the under-5,000-students category.

Educators at the Leyden District noticed that their Latino students were not participating in the theater program. To encourage more students to take part, they created the Teatro Leyden program. The theater department staged a Spanish-language production as well as a school play in English, casting Spanish and English-speaking students for this spring’s production and plays in each of the past three school years.

The project is designed to include more Latino students in school stage productions, and to make parents and other community members feel more welcome in the schools and more encouraged to attend school activities.

“By opening the Spanish language version of the shows, we’re giving a whole new group of kids a chance to perform on stage, to find their voice, to be involved in their school,” said Superintendent Nick Polyak.

“We were looking for a way to expand our program. We have a large Hispanic population that weren’t really trying out for the shows,” says Victor Pilolla, Leyden’s theatrical productions manager and technical director. “So, we were looking for a way for them to get into our program. We came across a show [in 2015] called ‘La Gringa’ which is written in both Spanish and English, and thought, you know, it couldn’t hurt to try.”

The success of “La Gringa” convinced Pilolla and others that they should produce a Spanish language play each year. This year's production is a trio of children's stories titled “Es La Vida Un Sueno/Is Life a Dream?”

The 2018 winners are being highlighted in NSBA’s April Journal and will be formally recognized at NSBA’s 78th Annual Conference in San Antonio next month.

Winning entries are posted on the Magna Awards website, which can be found here.