Innovative programs in four New Jersey school districts have been selected for recognition in the New Jersey School Boards Association’s 33rd annual School Leader Awards.

The 2019 School Leader Awards drew 17 entries from school districts across the state. The Union Township School District was named the “Exemplary Program,” taking top honors in the competition for its, “#The U’s Innovation Labs,” a program that features student designed centers for design challenges and prototyping.

Three other districts will receive “Outstanding Program” Awards – Jackson Township, Ocean City, and Paterson.

The school districts will be honored during Workshop 2019 at the Atlantic City Convention Center at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 22.  The ceremony will take place in the Investors Bank Theater on the Exhibit Floor in Exhibit Hall D.

Programs were judged based on their level of innovation, how well they meet the specific needs of students, the relationship of the program to the state’s curriculum standards, and program results. The judges for the 2019 School Leader Awards were Anne Gallagher, communications director for the New Jersey Association of School Administrators;  Dan Higgins, communications director for the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association; and, Vince DeLucia, director of training and professional development/educator-in-residence for the New Jersey School Boards Association.

The 2019 School Leader Award winners are:

Exemplary Program Award: Union Township School District

#TheU’s Innovation Labs

The goal of this program is to provide students with the opportunity to engage in meaningful STEM experiences to strengthen their creativity and analytical thinking ability. #TheU’s Innovation Labs are the center for design challenges and prototyping. Both schools in the district are equipped with a lab that was designed by students. Students are able to express their creativity and analytical thinking as they engage in design thinking. Each lab has writable surfaces on tables and walls and flexible seating. All students in grades K-8 participate in design challenges throughout the year.

Outstanding Program Awards:

Jackson Township School District – Jackson Elementary Science Curriculum

The Jackson school district administrative team created an innovative and locally developed elementary science curriculum. Instead of multiple choice exams and vocabulary quizzes, students engage in problem-solving sessions that result in answers limited only by their imagination.  Every design challenge is constructed to allow groups of students to synthesize ideas and determine the best possible solution.  Team-based decisions are used to scaffold concepts for students of differing abilities.

Ocean City School District – Ocean City TECH Lab (a primary-level STEAM program)

The goal of the Ocean City TECH Lab is to offer Pre-K to third-grade students authentic, hands-on, cross-curricular learning experiences, which allow them to experience and use technology to create ideas and solve problems. The program is designed to introduce students to innovative thinking and problem solving as early as pre-school. The comprehensive program focuses on core technology concepts, as outlined in the New Jersey Student Learning Standards, and integrates other subject areas to teach students that learning is interdisciplinary.

Paterson School District – Why I Came to America

English as a Second Language students at Paterson P.S. #21 reside in Paterson’s 4th ward, an area Paterson police say has its share of challenges.Yet, the English Language Learners are accustomed to developing personal narratives, utilizing translation tools, and self-editing work for publication. Recently the school district produced a publication of student testimonials, which is now shared with the Passaic County public library system.  All work was student-generated and provided valuable insights through the lens of a newcomer.  It is humorous at times, sad at others, but always fascinating.