Four Anoka-Hennepin specialty schools among top magnet programs in the nation

Four Anoka-Hennepin specialty schools are taking the notion of preparing students for life to an award-winning level.

Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy has been named a Magnet School of Excellence by the Magnet Schools of America, a nonprofit organization that provides support and assistance to magnet schools across the nation. CBPA is one of just six schools in the state, and one of 76 nationally to be given the honor.

Students work with plants inside Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy’s greenhouse. The school was recently named a Magnet School of Distinction by the Magnet Schools of America, a nonprofit organization that provides support and assistance to magnet schools across the nation. Submitted photo

Students work with plants inside Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy’s greenhouse. The school was recently named a Magnet School of Distinction by the Magnet Schools of America, a nonprofit organization that provides support and assistance to magnet schools across the nation. Submitted photo

In addition, Anoka Middle School for the Arts, Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts and Monroe Elementary School for Mathematics, Science and Children’s Engineering have been named Magnet School of Distinction by the group. Just seven schools in the state received “distinction” billing, and only 97 nationally.

“This is incredible and really exciting,” said Denise Schnabel, CBPA’s curriculum integration coordinator. In selecting schools for the awards, MSA receives applications from the best of the best schools from around the country, according to Schnabel.

With four specialty schools earning recognition, Anoka-Hennepin boasts more than any other district in the state.

So what do all of the award-winning schools have in common? According to staff at each, all four benefit from strong community connections; dedicated teachers and staff who are leaders in public education; and a fun and fully integrated curriculum – each of which is looked at by MSA as a category for the award.

“It’s a tall order to meet the requirements and excel in each category, and thus being nationally recognized simply feels good, said Jolanda Dranchak, the curriculum integration coordinator at AMSA, which was named a School of Distinction for the second straight year. “This recognition also energizes us to continue doing great things.”

Amy Oliver, the principal at Monroe says much of the credit for the award should go to teachers at the school. For example, at her school, they’re the ones, she said, who figure out how to do an engineering unit inside district curriculum.

“I think it goes unnoticed sometimes how much extra work teachers do at a (specialty) school,” she said. “So there’s a lot of validation with an award like this – people are noticing what we’re doing.”

On top of what’s already a tough application and selection process, MSA announced this year’s awards put more emphasis on academic rigor at the schools. That resulted in fewer awards being given than in previous years.

For Lincoln Principal Scott Lempka, that makes the award extra special. “It can be hard to do a good job of integrating the arts and being academically rigorous,” he said. “But we’re very much doing that – so it’s definitely exciting to be recognized.”

“Plus, we just had our kindergarten night and it was fun to have a chance to brag about ourselves a little bit,” Lempka said.

MSA’s professional organization represents approximately 4,000 magnet and theme-based schools nationwide.

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