School boards, according to some critics, are keepers of the status quo. As a longtime school board member, I know that nothing could be further from the truth. School leaders work tirelessly with district staff and their community to come up with the best ways to increase achievement and the well-being of their students.

When the pandemic forced school closures in March 2020, the true nature of our creativity was revealed. Schools across the nation found ways to quickly move instruction online, ensure that students had devices and connections, and continue to provide meals and other support to their families and communities.

We learned many lessons from the pandemic, including how school leaders, with their administrators, principals, and teachers, can make necessary changes and adjustments so their students and community get what they need to learn and thrive.

But we don’t need emergencies like the pandemic to spur our creativity. As we enter our third school year dealing with the impact of COVID-19, we know we can’t return to our pre-pandemic ways. Our schools and students face many challenges that require all of us in public education to think differently about solutions.

Top-down innovation can be difficult to implement. Instead, school leadership teams—school board members and their superintendent—can and should create a climate of innovation in their districts. Administrators, principals, and teachers can be encouraged to come forward with ideas to improve their schools and classrooms. You can give teachers time and safe spaces to collaborate, research, and plan for instructional innovations.

Students are an abundant and mostly untapped source of ideas, innovation, and creativity. They, too, can be granted time and space to research ways to improve their lives at school. Parents and community members also are sources for outside-the-box solutions to educational issues.

One of the best places to look for examples of school leader creativity is NSBA’s Magna Awards. The Magna Awards are the only national awards program that spotlights the innovative work of school boards. The Magna Awards have been demonstrating for more than 20 years how school boards encourage and nurture innovation in their districts, solving problems and removing barriers to learning for their students.

The 2023 Magna Awards are recognizing district programs that solved a challenge with creativity and outside-the-box strategies. A grand prize and five silver winners will be awarded in each category: under 5,000 enrollment; 5,000-20,000 enrollment; and over 20,000 enrollment. Three grand prize winners will showcase their winning programs at a special Master Class session during NSBA’s 2023 annual conference in Orlando in April. All winning districts will be featured in the April 2023 issue of American School Board Journal.

To learn more about the Magna Awards and how to enter your innovative programs, go to The deadline for submissions is Nov. 7.

I hope to see the products of your innovative spirit in this magazine and at our conference in April.

Frank Henderson Jr. is NSBA’s 2022-23 president and serves as president of the Seaman School Board in Topeka, Kansas.

Around NSBA

A group of high school students paint on canvases during an art class.

2023 Magna Awards Grand Prize Winners

School districts rethink and reinvent education for their students, staff, and communities.