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March 5, 2014


MRH Earns First Place Honors in 2014 Magna Awards for its Mac Mentor Program

magna awards logo The Maplewood Richmond Heights School District has been named one of fifteen first place winners in the American School Board Journal’s (ASBJ) and National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 20th annual Magna Awards program for its Mac Mentors and Student Help Desk. The program, in the Middle and High School, is a self-sustaining, in-house computer help desk, run by students to support the district’s 1:1 laptop initiative, and demonstrates the “school as apprenticeship” metaphor in the High School.

The Magna Awards recognize school boards and districts across the country for outstanding programs that advance student learning and encourage community involvement in schools. This year’s three grand prize, 15 first place, and 15 honorable mention winners were selected from three enrollment categories: under 5,000 students, 5,000 to 20,000 students, and over 20,000 students.

The 2014 winners will be highlighted in a special section in the March/April issue of ASBJ and will be formally recognized on Saturday, April 5 at the Best Practices for School Leaders Luncheon, which is part of NSBA’s 74th Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA.

This is the second time in three years MRH has been honored with a prestigious Magna Award. In 2012, the district won the Grand Prize for its work with Joe’s Place.

“This award is a wonderful acknowledgement of the work MRH has been doing with technology and implementing innovative programs to support the district’s 1:1 laptop initiative," said Karen I. Hall, MRH superintendent. “We are so thrilled the NSBA has recognized MRH and our Board of Education once again for the pioneering work we are doing.”

The first place Magna Award is in addition to the MRH High School’s Rhythm & Blues Band selection to perform at the NSBA convention as well. The band will be the convention’s opening entertainment on Saturday, April 5 at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Only three high school musical groups from across the United States have been invited to perform for an anticipated crowd of over 5,000 school leaders from across the county.

ASBJ initiated the Magna Awards in 1995 to recognize school boards for taking bold and innovative steps to improve their educational programs. An independent panel of school board members, administrators, and various educators selected the winners from nearly 300 submissions.

“The Magna Awards have always exemplified strong board leadership, creativity, innovation, and commitment to student achievement,” said MRH Board of Education President Francis Chmelir. “We are honored to once again receive recognition from the National School Boards Association for our students and teachers, our schools, and our community.”

In addition to a listing in the ASBJ special section, the districts’ winning entries will be added to the Magna Awards’ searchable best practices database. Both can be found at The 20th annual Magna Awards program is sponsored by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) American School Board Journal (ASBJ) with the generous support of Sodexo.

About the Mac Mentors and Student Help Desk

help tech desk Technology is integrated into all MRH schools, but most noticeably at the Middle and High School. Examples include a 1:1 laptop initiative program providing computers for every student in grades 7-12, curriculum in a content management system called Desire 2 Learn, and Google Apps for all students in grades 4-12.

The 1:1 initiative was launched in the Middle School in 2005 and the following year in the High School. Each student is provided a Mac laptop, free of charge. These laptops are in addition to each faculty member’s computer. The functional need of an on-site help desk quickly became apparent as the task of maintaining the devices and infrastructure proved to be a large task.

Thinking creatively, the District developed the in-house concept of a help desk in 2007 staffed partially with high school students who would later come to be known as Mac Mentors. The concept not only supported the functional needs of the school, but also just as importantly, it provided an ideal demonstration of the High School’s metaphor, “school as apprenticeship.”

Mac Mentors, stationed in the MRH Help Desk at the Middle/High School building, provide the necessary skills to identify and solve everyday technology problems that arise with hardware and software. Under the supervision of a full-time staff technician and a teacher, the well-trained Mac Mentors assist their student peers, faculty, and staff each day.

Currently, thirteen students are Mac Mentors with rotating shifts throughout the day. These coveted, unpaid, positions are highly sought after by the students who are looking to incorporate real world job and career opportunities with their traditional education experience.

For more information, contact MRH School District at (314) 644-4400.