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2018 Technical Assistance & Training Conference

STILL ON...We are pleased to report that Columbia and its schools experienced no damage from the rain.

Magnets by Design (MbD)
A Deeper Dive

October 3 – 5

The DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton
Columbia, South Carolina

Join MSA in Columbia, South Carolina October 3-5, 2018 for our Fall Technical Assistance & Training Conference as we continue to take a DEEPER DIVE into the world of the Standards of Excellence.


  • 2018 Magnet Superintendent of the Year
  • 2018 National Magnet Principal of the Year
  • 2018 National Magnet Teacher of the Year
  • 2018 Elementary Magnet School of Merit Award of Excellence
  • Five Demonstration Schools
  • Twenty-Seven Certified Magnet Schools
  • Twenty-Five Merit Schools of Excellence
  • Forty-One Merit Schools of Distinction

Hear from industry experts who introduce you to NUTS & BOLTS 2.0 of the Five Pillars.

Practices & Attitudes: Advanced Theories & Protocols in ensuring a healthy, progressive and diversified student body and staff.

Research-based Practices on Inquiry 2.0: Collaboration and filling the gaps.

Thought-Leader Symposium: Magnet and District Relations

Advanced Professional Development (PD) Planning: Learn from practitioners on how embedded PD, coaching, and reflection tools result in exemplar models.

Building Your Magnet Champions: Parent Advocates = Voices that Matter and Are Heard

In collaboration with Lexington Richland School District 5 and Richland School District 2, we have an award winning line-up of speakers and schools planned.  Network with fellow teachers, school and district leaders, and school advocates; see first-hand exemplar schools in action. This is one conference you won’t want to miss!

PLUS: Tours of schools you do not want to miss!

The agenda has not yet been finalized for the meeting; check back for updates. The meeting events are as follows:

Wednesday, October 3 | 1:30PM - 7:00PM

12:00PM – 7:00PM

MSA’s 2018 Magnet Superintendent of the Year Welcome – Dr. Stephen Hefner
1:30PM – 2:20PM

2:30PM – 3:40PM

School-Site Visits: Preparation Workshops
Peek inside the doors before your school visit and prepare to take your learning to the next level.
3:50PM – 4:40PM

Magnet Tankers – Don’t miss your chance to be a Shark!
4:50PM – 5:30PM

5:30PM – 7:00PM

Thursday, October 4 | 7:30AM - 5:00PM

Breakfast on your own

Line-Up and Depart

Superintendent’s Welcome
Meet and greet with Dr. Baron Davis and Dr. Christina Melton, an opportunity to continue the conversation post school visits.

1:45PM – 2:55PM

2:55PM – 3:45PM

3:50PM – 5:00PM

*Shuttle from hotel to “The Vista” provided by Experience Columbia

Friday, October 5 | 9:00AM - 12:00PM

Breakfast on your own

GENERAL SESSION with Maree SneedHogan Lovells

The Legal Landscape of Magnets: What’s Coming?
Education/magnet legal expert Maree Sneed will alert attendees to the many issues surfacing from different corners of the education-legal spectrum that are critical to be on top of. 

9:00AM – 10:00AM

Thought-Leader Panel
– Dr. Christina Melton, Superintendent, District Five of Lexington & Richland Counties
– Dr. Akil Ross, 2018 NASSP National Principal of the Year
– Dr. Helen Nelson Grant, Chief Diversity and Multicultural Inclusion Officer for Richland School District Two

This powerhouse group’s discussion on the current legal landscape for magnets regarding diversity and school integration is not to be missed.

10:20AM – 11:00AM

Round-Table Discussion
11:10AM – 11:50AM


11:50AM – 12:00PM


6 Ms of Culturally Responsive Instruction

In this session, participants will examine ways to be intentional in helping diverse learners gather, process, store, and retrieve/apply academic content. Specifically, we will explore ways to engage learners from diverse cultural backgrounds through 6 Ms of Culturally Responsive Instruction©: Meaning, Models, Monitoring, the Mouth, Music, and Movement. Embedded throughout the session will be opportunities to reflect on instructional practice using the 6 Ms as a framework.

Five Easy Pieces - Breaking Down the MSA Pillars for National Magnet Certification

Do you want to offer a PREMIER magnet program that is nationally certified by Magnet Schools of America? This session will provide you with the tips and strategies you need to align your program with MSA’s five pillars of excellence in order to achieve national certification. Come to this session to hear about the certification journey from the lead teachers of Dent Middle School and Kelly Mill Middle School, two nationally certified magnet schools in Richland School District Two.


How Magnet Schools Can Change the Landscape of Innovation

Magnet schools thrive in district environments that support innovative school choice options with purpose and intentionality. Overcoming obstacles of policy, politics, and public opinion is key to magnet school success. Join one district in a rear-view mirror analysis of the road to creating shared vision and a windshield view of next action steps to foster the conditions for innovation. An exploration of the role of the design process applied to defining school autonomy, district and community support, differentiated accountability, and process development will give participants the opportunity to learn from the successes and pitfalls of another district’s journey.


Leadership Excellence with your Minority Students

This presentation is all interactive and has the audience motivated to ask questions and make comments. This presentation takes us to the limits of our understanding that we all have biases and we all need to be on a journey to growing our capacity to love others who may be different. We talk about excellence in character, integrity, love, relationships. We discuss all the excuses that adults make that betray ourselves and our students. When then finish up on how to be a powerful and inspirational leader, a leader that has the courage and commitment to embrace all people and encourage them toward excellence.



Leadership for Change and Innovation

Our world demands innovation and in order to survive and thrive in the 21st century, we need youth who are creative and entrepreneurial problem solvers. In this session you will learn how to create a climate and culture that supports innovation and what steps you can take as a leader to start the change process today. In order to start the process you need to be vulnerable and willing to bravely lead, learn, and fail forward with your colleagues. Author and qualitative researcher, Brené Brown, has spent years researching vulnerability and courage. She believes “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Learn how Brené’s and other innovator’s research applies to education and how you can use your personal and organizational “why” as well as your collective capacity to fuel innovation and change in your school. Participants will walk away with an ignited desire to utilize their strengths and passions in education to remove barriers and build a team of leaders who are committed to rethinking educational opportunities.

Leaping from STEM to STEAM

Come see how one school is transforming from a STEM/Engineering curriculum focus to a STEAM based curriculum focus. Listen as we share our story of how we have revolutionized our curriculum to engage all learners through STEAM based practices. See how we have woven this common thread throughout our entire day in each subject area along with each class.




Preparing Students for Academic and Personal Success Through the Arts - Where Masterpieces are Created!

Vineville Academy of the Arts – “Preparing Students for Academic and Personal Success through the Arts” for over 15 years. Most recently The Leader In Me philosophy has inspired student leadership opportunities in all personal and academic areas. Being a recipient of Georgia Association of Educational Leaders – GAEL School Bell Award for the past three years for Pan-Philharmonic orchestra, Panda Players drama and RoboPandas robotics illustrates the dedication and diversity of our students and highly qualified staff. The innovative Fine Arts Programs provide our students opportunities to excel in various modalities, creative outlets and future career endeavors. Vineville Academy students receive intentional exposure and specified instruction in areas of visual art, dance, music, strings, technology and drama providing a strong skillset preparing students to be college and career ready for the 21st century global society.

Embracing The Leader in Me paradigm; Vineville Academy has sought out opportunities for students to learn fundamentals of leadership, demonstrate academic gifts, personal talents and provide a multitude of leadership roles for students to enhance their leadership skills. Our staff strongly believes in building student leaders focused on academics, while also honing their talents in artistic venues. Students lead through school-wide and community performances, modeling for younger students and creating a culture of servant leadership for the community. The Leader in Me has intensified the learning experiences and educational journey for our students. Our focus is to grow students who display leadership, scholarship and citizenship in all areas of their life.

The Mechanics of Access: Tools and Barriers to creating equitable pathways for all students

The Mechanics of access will provide insight to the tools and barriers involved in creating equitable access pathways for all students. Based on new research from University of South Carolina, this presentation is specific to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program and will inform the audience on the multidimensional aspects of access. IB high schools in South Carolina with diverse populations are exhibiting an equity effort that successfully integrates students by closing the opportunity gap. Access is complicated. Tools to access begins with a commitment to resources, choice clarity, innovative pathways and social momentum. Barriers to access rest in old habits, attrition rates, choice parity, and social momentum. Enjoy this thought provoking session about access – a sticky wicket!

Tips for Ensuring Equity and Inclusion of Magnet Programs

Improving equity and inclusion is one of the most exciting parts of magnet programming. In this session, we will describe and offer steps on how we ensure equity in the lottery and notification process. We will also give specific examples of how we ensure inclusion of magnet themes and activities for students with special needs.

Utilizing Grants to Make a Difference for Students and Teachers

The Math and Problem/Project-based Learning for Student Success (MAPSS) is a Math and Science Partnership (MSP) federally funded grant that was awarded to Mount Airy City Schools in 2015. The three year grant funded at approximately $2 million has provided teachers across 16 districts with professional development to support math through the instructional framework of the inquiry-based learning environment. This research-based project was supported through our partnership with Wake Forest University and the University of Texas-Dallas. Professional development and grants must have sustainability plans that allow the projects to continue providing impacts after the grant cycle is complete. Teachers are a critical part of this because they have the ability to build capacity within their schools and districts after engaging in professional development. MAPSS ensured that teachers gained valuable strategies and resources, while also tasking them with the ability to grow their colleagues through their own ability to lead and evoke change. Mount Airy City Schools is extremely proud of the impact of the MAPSS MSP federally funded grant. The district has been able to build capacity and grow through the work that was only made available through the willingness to seek and manage external funding sources.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Participants will learn how to integrate career and technical education with core content areas to connect college and career knowledge through the use of industry themes. Rigorous Cambridge AS and A level coursework can be united with career themes, leading learners to be world ready, workforce ready, and higher education ready. Specific examples will be discussed that lead to distinguished academies and the use of systems to ensure fidelity to the design. Integrating rigorous Cambridge AS and A level course into the scheme will also be highlighted.


Spring Hill High School & The Center for Advanced Technical Studies - A Premiere Partnership in Career Pathways (TOUR A)

Session attendees will learn how an all-choice all-magnet high school and a center for technical studies have partnered to create programs designed to prepare students for success whether their goal is to get a head start on college by earning college credits in high school, gaining industry certifications, or uncovering hidden talents and interests. Our academies integrate traditional subjects into specialized themes which are coupled with real-world experiences to strengthen the crucial link between academic skills and future economic success.  SPRINGHILL HIGH SCHOOL & THE CENTER FOR ADVANCED TECHNICAL STUDIES

Why Beliefs Matter with Magnet School Success (TOUR B)

When most people are asked to talk about their magnet schools/programs more often than not they began with what they do or what they offer. Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, tells us that people don’t buy what you do…they buy “why” you do it. At DFES we co-created 10 school beliefs that serve as the guide for the work within our magnet school. Helping prospective families and teachers understand our beliefs provides better context for “what we do” and “how we do it.” This session offers practical insights on moving beyond what is typical in magnet schools and do that which is possible in magnet schools.  DUTCH FORK ELEMENTARY ACADEMY OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES

Leading the Way - Tour E.L. Wright Middle School IB and Leadership Magnet (TOUR C)

Participants will receive a brief of overview of the International Baccalaureate Program and the Leadership Academy magnet programs.  E.L. WRIGHT MIDDLE SCHOOL IB and LEADERSHIP MAGNET

Sustaining Success in Magnet Schools: An Effective Practice Trifecta (TOUR C)

The session will engage attendees in an overview of how the importance of an unwavering vision and magnet school theme, dedication to high quality instructional systems, and intentional innovative curriculum development increase and often sustain magnet school success. Discover how to “scream your theme” and proactively filter school curriculum and professional development through the lense of academic excellence. Attend this session to discover the effective practices implemented at Center for Knowledge, a nationally certified and premier Core Knowledge magnet program in Richland School District Two. Challenge your thinking and practice as we deep dive to examine: Professional development aligned with curriculum and theme fidelity Instructional fidelity linked to student achievement Magnet school leadership strengthened by district relations.   CENTER FOR KNOWLEDGE

Fueling the Flame of Diversity (TOUR D)

Come join Richland Northeast High School as they take you on a tour around the World. Richland Northeast “Fuels the Flame” through its’ continued efforts to cultivate a school culture and climate that thrives in varied perspectives and a myriad of student talents. Our school’s magnet programs embrace and celebrate the true meaning of international mindedness by offering our students opportunities that energize their thoughts, grown their global perspectives,, and encourage their exploration of their interests. As our students’ talents vary, so do our magnet programs. Opportunities in Academics, the Arts, and Career and Technology abound! Come explore how RNE blazes across the diversity spectrum in service to our unique student populations and talents.   RICHLAND NORTHEAST HIGH SCHOOL


From becoming "sea turtles" at Edisto State Park, identifying plants hiking Chimney Rock, to the uses of elephant dung at Riverbanks Zoo... ZooBot students experience it all (TOUR E)

The School of Zoological and Botanical Studies Magnet Program (ZooBot) is a school within a school magnet housed at Longleaf Middle School in Richland District Two. This one of a kind magnet program offers students real life experiences in care and conservation of living things and the environment. Riverbanks Zoo and Garden was instrumental in creating this magnet program and has continued to grow with ZooBot, customizing learning to meet the students’ needs. Since the origin of ZooBot in 2009, additional partnerships have been established providing students further opportunities in real world learning. ZooBot students in each grade level (6-8) are off campus each month making what they learned in the classroom come alive.

ZooBot also uses community partnerships during their monthly after school programs. PAALS (Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services) teaches students how to train service learning dogs while gaining and understanding of how they are used to assist the disabled. Richland Soil and Water Conservation District leads experiments with soil quality and establishes classroom compost bins.

Carolina Wildlife brings in the education ambassadors that cannot be released into the wild to teach care and conservation of living things.

Using student interests and provide real life learning experiences has proven to be effective in the ZooBot program. Analysis of standardized tests focusing on science demonstrates higher academic achievement then peers. ZooBot uses an innovative way to infuse the theme into students’ learning. ZooBot creates learners who want to go to school each day ready to learn. @RIVER BANKS ZOO & GARDEN | LONGLEAF MIDDLE SCHOOL



Based on the popular TV show Shark Tank, our version features EDU-preneurs! They’ll have fifteen minutes each to pitch YOU the latest in custom products and services for magnet schools. Feel like a real Shark as you listen and evaluate how they can help enrich and delight your classrooms. You can also visit their booths to learn more about their products and enjoy exclusive MSA member discounts.

Healthy Hands Cooking

Healthy Hands Cooking wants to help take a bite out of childhood obesity and make good food FUN again! The HHC Kids Club is a wellness education program combining movement, nutrition, healthy cooking skills, S.T.E.A.M learning, and homework time. Their research-based lesson plans are used by schools and organizations to run cooking clubs, summer camps, in-classroom learning, and afterschool programs. Stop by their booth to test your fruit and veggie knowledge at their Produce Petting zoo, or guess the fresh veggies growing in their indoor vertical garden. See what’s cookin’ at


See, hear and touch the knowledge! CleverBooks is changing the way educational content is delivered and personalized for students. Through the use of Augmented Reality technology, they bring subjects to life by visualizing them in 3D. This technology supports students’ individual learning styles, improves test scores by up to 33%, and increases their information retention rate by up to 100%. Get your free EdTech and STEM kit at


The perfect introduction to computer programming! Progate offers a fully equipped coding environment for beginners so students can start coding right in their browser without needing to install any software. Lessons are available in multiple programming languages, along with a dashboard for teachers to monitor their progress. Students of all levels advance independently with the Hints feature, by reviewing the exercise answers and testing their code with the auto-judge system. Start coding now at


Wednesday, October 3

Dr. Stephen Hefner
MSA’s 2018 Magnet Superintendent of the Year

This annual award recognizes the important work of leadership within our school districts to keep magnet schools a priority in the portfolio of school choice options. Dr. Hefner’s unyielding focus on expanding school choice by creating magnet options in District Five has been the catalyst for school improvement districtwide. Spanning nearly 30 years, Dr. Hefner has facilitated the creation of numerous magnet schools and programs in two South Carolina districts, many of which have been recognized by Magnet Schools of America as Schools of Excellence and Schools of Distinction, and achieved designation as Nationally Certified Magnet Schools. In District Five, Dr. Hefner has also helped school leaders secure two multi-million dollar federal Magnet School Assistance Program (MSAP) grants, including a $10.3 million grant in 2013 and $13.7 million grant announced last fall.


Thursday, October 4

Dr. Baron R. Davis
Superintendent, Richland School District Two, SC

An educator for more than 20 years, Dr. Baron R. Davis is Richland School District Two’s Superintendent. Davis served a transition year as the superintendent-elect prior to assuming leadership of the district in 2017. In one of his first tasks as Superintendent, the 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, Davis lays out his vision for partnering with our families, staff and community to make Richland Two the premier school district.  Read more…


Thursday, October 4

Dr. Christina S. Melton
Superintendent, District Five of Lexington & Richland Counties, SC

Christina Melton adopted an Emerson quote as her personal mantra when she became an education leader.  “Do not go where there is a path. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”  Dr. Melton’s trail has been classroom teacher, school administrator, district administrator, and now, Superintendent in School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties.  The schools she served earned various accolades and formed innovative community partnerships to support student achievement.  South Carolina’s ETV recorded a documentary on Dr. Melton’s leadership as a case study and tool kit to assist other schools with transformation.  As a district administrator, she and her team have created innovative instructional and professional development models which have attracted state and national attention.  Dr. Melton believes in leaving a trail of academic excellence and community engagement.  Read more…


Friday, October 5

Maree Sneed
Senior Counsel, Hogan Lovells

Maree Sneed is recognized in the education industry as a lawyer who helps school districts, independent schools, educational institutions, and educational companies solve their most complex problems. For three decades, clients have sought Maree’s advice as a result of her experience working in the education system, her legal acumen, her public policy work, and her ability to make connections between the education and legal arenas.  Read more…


Dr. Christina S. Melton
Superintendent, District Five of Lexington & Richland Counties, SC

Dr. Akil Ross,
2018 NASSP National Principal of the Year

Upon graduation from Duke University, Dr. Akil Ross moved to South Carolina, where he taught Social Studies for three years at Eau Claire High School. In 2005, he obtained his M.Ed. in Secondary Educational Administration from the University of South Carolina, and joined Chapin High School as an assistant principal in July of 2005.  After 5 years as an assistant principal, he was named principal In July of 2010. In July of 2012, he completed his doctorate degree in Curriculum Studies from the University of South Carolina. Chapin High School has received many awards and recognitions under Dr. Ross such as Palmetto’s Finest, National Rankings in Academics, 14 State Championships in Athletics, 4 State Championships in Marching Band and 2 NJROTC State Championship including 1 National Championship Unit. Dr. Ross was named the 2017 SC Secondary Principal of the Year and 2018 NASSP National Principal of the Year. He and his wife Jocelyn live in Columbia and have two children, Alyssa (8) and A.J. (4).

Dr. Helen Nelson Grant, Chief Diversity and Multicultural Inclusion Officer for Richland School District Two

Dr. Helen Nelson Grant is the Chief Diversity and Multicultural Inclusion Officer for Richland School District Two.  Dr. Grant earned her J.D. degree from Duke University School of Law and her undergraduate degree from Columbia College.  She has been a licensed attorney in South Carolina for over 30 years.  She was previously a partner in a Columbia, SC law firm and she has served as “Of Counsel” to a law firms in Fayetteville, NC and Columbia, SC. Prior to joining the school district, Dr. Grant worked for the Nexsen Pruet law firm where she assisted them with recruitment, retention and diversity initiatives.

In her role in the school district, Dr. Grant is responsible for recommending, developing, implementing and managing programs and initiatives aimed at advancing diversity and multicultural inclusion.  She serves as the chief advisor to the Superintendent in the development and implementation of diversity and multicultural practices and initiatives and she is the district’s chief spokesperson and district representative for diversity and multicultural matters.


*Check back for updates.






MSA Member Non-Member
Early Bird
Register on/before September 4 – extended to September 11



Register between September 12 – 24



After September 24



*If you have any questions, please email or call (202) 824-0672.

Policies & Procedures (please read carefully!)

Online registration ONLY

Cancellations and requests for refunds must be submitted in writing via email to no later than September 4, 2018.  A $150 administrative fee will be assessed on all cancellation and refund requests, if made on/before September 4, 2018.  Absolutely no refunds will be considered after this deadline (September 8, 2018).  Faxes and verbal cancellation/refund requests will not be accepted.

A $50 fee will be assessed after September 4, 2018 to transfer registration from one individual to another.  Registration transfer requests must be submitted in writing via email to by September 24, 2018.

Registration fees may not be credited to membership or future MSA events.

Payment must be received within 21 days of registration.

Please mail all checks to: Magnet Schools of America | P.O. Box 45739 | Baltimore, MD 21297-5739

All registrations with purchase orders (PO): please email a copy of the document to or fax to 202-737-0100 within 10 business days of registering.

Credit Card payments may be processed online during the registration process. Onsite payments and purchase orders may be accepted at Onsite Registration with a credit card guarantee. Only cash, credit/debit card or corporate/district pre-printed checks will be accepted.




DoubleTree by Hilton Columbia

2100 Bush River Road
Columbia, SC 29210
(803) 744-0130

$159 per night plus tax (single/double)
Breakfast for two included.
Courtesy shuttle available, call hotel for details.

  • CHECK-IN: after 3:00 PM
  • CHECK-OUT: 12:00 PM

*The group block expires on Monday, September 24, 2018 (new date), so please make your reservation today.  Room rate is not guaranteed for all nights and is based on availability.

All reservations must be secured with a valid credit card along with a first night’s deposit.  Checks and major credit cards are acceptable to establish prepayment.  All credit cards used to prepay the room deposit will be charged immediately.  Individual reservations must be cancelled no later than Friday, September 10, 2018 to avoid forfeiture of the first night’s deposit.

Reserve Room

Delta Air Lines is pleased to offer special discounts for Magnet Schools of America.

Please click here  to book your flights.

You may also call Delta Meeting Network® at 1.800.328.1111* Monday–Friday7:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. (CT) and refer to Meeting Event Code NY2EC.

*Please note there is not a service fee for reservations booked and ticketed via the reservation 800 number.


We have partnered with United Airlines to offer travel discounts to our event.

Visit and enter ZFS7267373 in the Offer Code box.

You may also call United Meeting Reservation Desk at 800-426-1122 Mon-Fri 8am – 10pm ET and Sat/Sun 8am – 6pm ET. Booking fees are waived for Meeting reservations.

Learn how to become a Nationally Certified Magnet School

Raise the level of performance consistent throughout school districts nationwide and creates a platform from which all magnet schools can flourish. Magnet Schools of America’s national certification process is designed to recognize the hard work of the best magnet schools in the nation and to help them as they grow.

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