AllentownSchool District

Allentown School District Honored as 2019 Magna Award Winner for Equity Programs

Allentown School District Honored as 2019 Magna Award Winner for Equity Programs
Posted on 03/25/2019

The Allentown School District (ASD) is excited to announce that both the K-6 and Secondary Newcomer Academies have been recognized by the National School Board Association with a First Place 2019 Magna Award.

This year’s winners were selected from three enrollment categories: under 5,000 students, 5,000 to 20,000 students (ASD category), and over 20,000 students. Applicants were judged based on a program or district’s ability to remove barriers to achievement for underserved or vulnerable children.

In January 2017, ASD became the first school district in the region to adopt an equity policy and has stood firm in its commitment to ensuring opportunity and access for all students. This commitment is demonstrated through an emphasis on personalized learning and instruction for all students regardless of educational classification, language proficiency or any other need.

In the Allentown School District, the English Learner (EL) population grew by 32% during the 2017-2018 school year. After Hurricane Maria in September of 2017, more than 400 K-12 evacuee students from the Caribbean enrolled in the Allentown School District.  Many of the evacuees were elementary students. K-6 Newcomer Academy officially opened in February 2018 and most of the evacuee students enrolled in K-6 Newcomer Academy.  The ASD Newcomer Academies seek to remove barriers to achievement by helping students learn English and transition into a large inner-city public school system.

“The Secondary Newcomer Academy opened in 2010 and because of its success, plans to expand to include grades K-6 had been informally discussed at the district level. After Hurricane Maria, we had to act quickly to ensure that we could best serve students who were new to our city and our schools,” said Superintendent Thomas Parker. “With the support of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Secretary Pedro Rivera, we were given the ability to expand our facilities and capacity to meet the urgent needs of our evacuee population.”

Kathleen Gill, Director of ESOL and World Languages also serves as principal at both Newcomer Academies. “It has been rewarding to witness firsthand the evacuee students thrive and succeed at the Newcomer Academies. We are very excited to receive this national honor and look forward to continuing our commitment to equity and excellence in the Allentown School District,” she stated.

The Magna Awards 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.”

The 25th annual Magna Awards program is sponsored by the National School Boards Association’s flagship magazine, American School Board Journal (ASBJ). All winners will be recognized at NSBA’s annual conference, to be held March 30 to April 1 in Philadelphia and featured in the April ASBJ issue.


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About The National School Boards Association

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA believes education is a civil right necessary to the dignity and freedom of the American people, and all children should have equal access to an education that maximizes his or her individual potential. The association represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S.