School district of Altoona receives 2019 NSBA Magna Award

Altoona School District is recognized for their hands-on efforts to develop alternative learning environments for students dealing with behavioral issues in class, receiving the 25th annual Magna Awards program sponsored by the National School Boards Association’s flagship magazine, American School Board Journal (ASBJ). This is the second year that the Magna Awards recognize school districts and their leaders for their efforts to bring educational equity to their students.

The Magna Awards, supported by Sodexo, a leader in delivering sustainable, integrated facilities management and food service operations, honor districts across the country for programs that break down barriers for underserved students. A panel of school board members, administrators, and other educators selected the winners from 200 submissions.

“It takes commitment to start an equity program and fortitude to sustain it,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, National School Boards Association Executive Director & CEO. “I congratulate the 2019 Magna Award winning districts for performing the hard and sometimes unpopular work to ensure all of their students are supported and provided with the tools and opportunities needed to succeed.”

This year’s three grand prize winners and 15 first place winners were selected from three enrollment categories: under 5,000 students, 5,000 to 20,000 students, and over 20,000 students. Each of the grand prize-winning school districts will give a special presentation at NSBA’s annual conference, to be held March 30 to April 1 in Philadelphia.

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Shelter designed and built by students dedicated at Kimberly park

Visitors to Sunset Park in Kimberly will have a new place to gather. A rebuilt Shelter Number One was dedicated Thursday, and students from Kimberly High School were the ones who did the work.

“It’s kind of an iconic spot in Kimberly. With the scenic outlook and the proximity to the river. So, to have this structure here for the community to use, is an honor,” said Holly Femal, Village of Kimberly Community Enrichment Director.

Femal says the Village of Kimberly bought the materials, and students from the high school’s building construction class spent several months building a brand new shelter at Sunset Park. The students worked alongside local construction professionals, like concrete workers, and welders, in order to learn from the experts in the field. That includes the architects too.

Senior Mackenzie Beck designed the shelter, with some guidance from a local company. “It was overwhelming at first. But it ended up being really cool and exciting,” Beck said.

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Portage students organize to provide beds for kids

Not long after seven Portage High School students learned that children in their community were sleeping on the floor, they decided to do something about it.

Last summer junior Hannah Ness volunteered to build beds for the Portage chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace. Ness first heard about the charitable group from her friend, Tori Scheibach, whose father, Brian Scheibach, helped launch the nonprofit in May.

“It was both surprising and saddening,” Ness said of her initial thoughts about the need for the group. She had no idea the invitation to build for the organization from Tori Scheibach — a 2017 Portage High School graduate — would lead to her participation in several builds and deliveries and, ultimately, to her organizing an event to raise money for the program.

To raise money for the group, Ness and the seven-member officer team of Portage Future Business Leaders of America launched Winter Family Fun Day, which is from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Portage High School.

Their event is designed for children in preschool through fifth grade who will participate in a dance party, cookie decorating, crafts and games. Participants are encouraged to donate $2 or a children’s book or stuffed animal.

“We as a community should be so proud to know we are not only raising smart and high achieving kids, but even more importantly we are raising kids that see more value in giving back and helping others,” Scheibach said of contributions from local students.

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Another NSPRA SuccesStory — Racine Unified School District

Congratulations to Racine Unified School District for being awarded the NSPRA’s Gold Medallion Award in recognition of outstanding educational public relations programs.

Closing a school building or changing attendance zones can bring out fierce opposition in a school community. In 2017-18, Racine Unified School District proposed both and then some as part of a major middle school transformation set for 2018-19. Through research-informed communication strategies and tactics, the “My School. My Choice.” campaign successfully turned potential opponents into leaders and supporters of RUSD’s new concept for its boundary and choice middle schools.

RUSD’s journey of transformation was prompted by challenges such as declining enrollment, inefficient use of facilities and negative perceptions of its middle schools. The district conducted research to determine what its families wanted — more choices and opportunities, safe and engaging learning environments, challenging curriculum to prepare students for college or careers — and what its middle schools needed to meet those desires.

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Robot allows home-bound students to attend class in Evansville


The donation of a telepresence robot to JC McKenna Middle School in Evansville will allow students unable to come to school to be there virtually.

The robot, which looks similar to a segway, holds a height adjustable iPad on a motorized wheel, which can be controlled remotely from a tablet or phone. This gives students who are sick the opportunity not to miss out on school, or socialization.

The robot was donated in honor of a former JC McKenna student, Matthew Winter, who lost his life to bone cancer after his second diagnosis. During his battle against Ewing’s sarcoma, Winter was forced to miss school for long periods at a time.

“We spent almost every other week at UW Children’s hospital in Madison. He missed his friends and he missed his classes,” said Winter’s mother, Rene Wieloch.

One of Winter’s friends noticed a telepresence robot at his dad’s work and realized how the tool could have helped Matthew while he was sick. “He said Matt hadn’t been in school for the past year,” said Nate Ellsworth. “Had he had this tool, he could have been there.”

Ellsworth, who is the CEO of N1 Critical Technologies in Janesville, says he decided at that point it was important to make sure any other student who had the same needs had access to the tool.


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High school students learn the art of business

Students at Wausau West High School turned the holidays into a business opportunity in their entrepreneurial class.

From the outside in, it would look like any other high school class you’ve ever seen before, but if you look closer, you’ll find out it’s far from typical.

They’ve started their own company. They sell stock, they choose a product, they manufacture that product, they do sales and marketing to sell the product to their friends, family, and community members. Then the students walk away with a paycheck at the end of the semester.” Stephanie Jahnke said to NewsChannel 7.

Jahnke is the teacher leading the class, but she’s more like the manager in the midst of a business operation. During the class’ open house Wednesday, customers saw just that. The group is selling holiday greeting cards.

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Let’s all agree to be as kind as these kindergartners are each day

At a small school in Birchwood, a kindergarten teacher has marveled at the results after adding the role of “classroom greeter” to the kids’ job at school.

Nicole Schlapper told “Good Morning America” that she hopes the daily “small, simple gesture of friendship and kindness” her students show one another each morning “will stay with them as they grow up together throughout their years, in school and into adulthood.”

“The children absolutely love this job and show great excitement when their turn comes up,” Schlapper said.

One particular day is getting a lot of attention. The video of a 5-year-old Colin Baker doing the classroom “greeter” job has received more than 1 million views on the school district’s Facebook Page.

The children are able to choose how they want to be greeted. On Colin’s day, the majority of the 15 kindergarten students chose hugs. Schlapper said the morning routine has “been a wonderful way for the children to connect with each other, build relationships and show kindness. I truly believe it promotes a sense of community and sets a positive tone for the day.”

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Thirteen WI Schools Named “America’s Healthiest”

Thirteen schools in Chipppewa Falls, Green Bay, Tomahawk, Neenah, Oregon and Verona were named by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation as “America’s Healthiest Schools” along with more than 400 schools in 26 states.

All of the award-winning, America’s Healthiest Schools:


  • Meet or exceed federal nutrition standards for school meals and snacks
  • Offer breakfast daily
  • Implement district wellness policies and update progress annually
  • Provide students with at least 60 minutes of physical education per week and ensure physical activity throughout the school day

Banker offers free 2-year tuition to every senior at Luck High School

Luck High School principal Brad Werner talks to students on their first day of school. He announced a scholarship for every graduating senior to go to technical school.

Students at a Wisconsin high school got a huge surprise on their first day of school: An area businessman offered to pay for every graduating senior to attend a two-year technical college.

Luck High School principal Brad Werner announced the offer on Tuesday at the school’s welcome back assembly in the school gym. The school’s 34 seniors were sitting in the front.
“It was a fun experience for me to share this experience with the seniors and watch their faces and their eyeballs get big,” he said. It was almost as big a shock for Werner.
He said Dennis Frandsen, who owns companies around the region and one of Luck’s two banks, called last month and asked to meet with Werner and the school superintendent.
Werner said Frandsen’s bank has been very supportive of the school in the six years he has been the principal, but they’d never met. “He just showed up and set the offer on the table for us. It’s almost mind boggling to think that that’s just come through, out of the blue, and is an opportunity for our kids,” Werner said. “It’s a little bit hard to wrap your mind around.”