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Stand Up 4 Public Schools


Vibrant public schools are essential to the economic, civic and social health of the U.S. and they need your support to continue to do great work. We thank everyone who Stands Up 4 Public Schools.

The Stand Up 4 Public Schools campaign ran from 2014 through 2018, however, you can still explore a sampling of 'extraordinary' stories about innovative programs and initiatives and 'difference makers,'--teachers, principals, counselors, school board members, administrators and other education professionals-- who work tirelessly to improve the lives of our children through public education.

For more news and insights about public education and how you can support your local public schools please visit NSBA’s homepage.

No Ordinary Day

See the Extraordinary

Creativity is prevalent in our public schools, and it produces unique and amazing activities and outcomes every day. The extraordinary teaching and learning in our neighborhood schools is grounded in innovative programs in communities, from the smallest to the largest school districts. Our public schools have achieved historic high graduation rates at the same time we have the most rigorous academic requirements and, today, 80 percent of graduates go on to two- or four-year colleges and universities and more students are prepared to enter the workforce. And, public schools often go beyond academics by providing food, clothing, health care and more services. They offer GED classes and career and technical training. They welcome all children and people who want an education. Public schools are the path to a fulfilling life and these programs are just some of the great work. The vast majority of Americans believe public education is the great equalizer and that it provides them with the ability to control their own destiny. The long history of public schools proves that they are right.

  • Arizona

    The “Promised” Neighborhood

    Undeterred after being turned down for federal funding to create a “Promise Neighborhood,” Balsz Elementary School District took matters into their own hands.

    Approximately 2,600 students in the Balsz School District face poverty, homelessness, and parent incarceration with many of the families unable to meet even their most basic needs. The Promise Neighborhood grant program in essence helps revitalize disadvantaged neighborhoods and improve student outcomes by building educational programs and family and community supports.

    Without federal funding, the “Promise” seemed a distant dream until the school board and a coalition of business and community partners decided to follow the “Promise Neighborhood” model anyway.

    A child and an adult garden

    Through generous local support, in-kind donations, volunteerism, and other small grants, the Balsz Promise Neighborhood leveraged over $450,000 for their “Neighborhood” project.

    The district now has a new Boys & Girls Club branch that serves more than 300 youths daily. The Promise Field is a renovated multi-use sports and recreation space for youth and adults. The Youth Advisory Council promotes leadership, civic engagement, and community service for teens. Thanks to partnerships with several health centers the community can access affordable, high-quality health care. A volunteer income tax assistance program offers free tax preparation services and has brought more than $300,000 in refunds back into the community and several organizations provide financial coaching and help individuals get jobs.

    With continued work and support this board and coalition kept and built on their promise!

    Learn more about Balsz Elementary School District, Phoenix, Arizona at

  • California

    Parents Breaking Down Parent Engagement Barriers

    Sometimes it takes a parent to help a parent. In ABC Unified School District, fifty-seven languages are spoken and more than 90 percent of the student population come from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. When trying to break down barriers that can prevent parents from coming to their children’s schools, the district tapped a wise source: parents who had been new to the system – and the country – several years ago.

    “I give a lot of credit to the immigrant parents who, five or six years earlier, were trying to navigate the system,” says Superintendent Mary Sieu. “They felt a lot of other parents were in the same boat, and they wanted to create a network of other people to talk to.”

    This core group of parents organized the Parent Leadership Academy and Conference, an annual event that is supplemented with monthly classes and workshops, led by parents, and offered in multiple languages. About 100 parents went to the first conference, but it’s grown to more than 5,000 attendees.

    “It brings parents together,” says school board member Maynard Law. “We are such a diverse school system. The program brings everyone together to be successful.”

    Another noticeable benefit is the growth in student achievement. The district now exceeds the state average on California’s Academic Performance Index.

    Learn more about ABC Unified School District, Cerritos, California at

  • Georgia

    How One Georgia High School is Burning Down Barriers and Beating the Odds

    Though many families in Chattooga County, set in rural northwest Georgia, may struggle financially, poverty hasn’t negatively impacted the county’s high school graduation rate. This small, close-knit mill community’s single high school graduates 92% of its students.

    Over 72% of Chattooga High School’s 850 students receive free and reduced lunch, yet 92% of its senior class – 179 students – graduated this past spring.

    What’s their secret?

    “We work in close partnership with the community through our relationships with the kids at this school,” said Jeff Martin, Chattooga High School’s principal. “It’s very important to us that these kids – and their parents – know we care about them.”

    This dedication to the community comes straight from the top. The district’s superintendent, Jim Lenderman, graduated from Chattooga High School in 1972, then left to join the Marine Corp. He returned in 2008 as the high school’s assistant principal and athletic director and served as principal before becoming schools superintendent in 2011.

    It was then, Martin said, that things really began to change.

    “We had other superintendents who stayed for a few years, but there was no real consistency,” said Martin. “When Jim came back, he really started working on ways to address the discipline issues and empower our teachers.”

    When Lenderman took charge of the district, discipline became a major focus. The first year, there were 1,300 discipline “write-ups” at Chattooga High School, Martin said. The following year, that number dropped to 300.

    The key, according to Martin, is giving teachers complete control of their classrooms so that they can ultimately take ownership of the school.
    “I clear their path, but the teachers are in control of the school,” said Martin. “We don’t tolerate any disrespect. We’re not just preparing kids for a test, but for the workplace as well. We care about them and want them to be successful.”

    But radical change didn’t come easy. Just two months after Lenderman returned to Chattooga County, his house was burned down. The tragedy only strengthened his resolve to improve the community he and Jeff Martin – and many of the district’s teachers – had called home most of their lives.

    “After that, when I stayed, the students and the community knew we weren’t going to quit and they started getting on board,” said Lenderman. “We all chose to come back to this county and give back to these kids. For us, this community is one big family.”

    A totem pole display inside a high school

    Lenderman helped the high school identify borderline discipline issues, which ultimately led to the creation of Chattooga Academy, a “school within a school” focused on helping struggling students graduate. The first year there were six graduates of the academy. Last year, it graduated 27 students.

    “The academy focuses on kids who will not graduate unless something is done,” said Martin. “If a student wants to graduate, we do everything we can to make sure they have what they need to get their diploma.”

    The school also has an esteemed Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) program that has won national championships in small business repair and auto body repair. The program has produced several small business owners and engineers, as well as many expert welders and other skilled workers.

    On the other end of the academic spectrum, the high school has also implemented several “dual enrollment” courses that enable students to receive college credit.

    “We have many kids who leave our school with skills to go out into the workforce. We put the same emphasis on those things as we do our college-bound students,” said Lenderman. “Our motto is ‘Expect Success.’ We expect your child to do the work, graduate and get a good job.”

    The school also works with community and civic organizations to provide students with basic needs like food over the weekends and during summer break. All Chattooga County schools maintain food pantries and participate in a community backpack program that discreetly sends food home with students over the weekend.

    The district also runs a federally funded feeding program during the summer, providing sack lunches to area students.

    Students who are identified as “at risk” in middle school can also join the Jobs for Georgia Graduates (JGG) program, which pairs students with community volunteer projects throughout their four years of high school. The JGG program has had a 100% graduation rate since its inception eight years ago.

    This level of administrative and community support has empowered teachers to make a real difference in their students’ lives.

    “From my perspective, I think I have the best teaching job in the state,” said Shane Tucker, an English and literature teacher at Chattooga High School for 23 years. “I have access to all the resources I need and am allowed to teach without having to worry about distractions. When an administrator comes into my classroom, there is no intimidation. The attitude is, ‘How can I help?’ That makes teaching really fun.”

    Lenderman credits the strong sense of community for Chattooga High School’s success and loyalty runs deep. Lenderman, Martin and Tucker are all graduates of the school, as is the county commissioner, the sheriff, and most of the Chattooga Board of Education including its chairman, Eddie Massey.

    “The teachers here won’t let anyone fall through the cracks,” said Massey. “It’s a struggle for them, but they all meet it head on. We are very proud of our teachers. A lot of us have lived here all of our lives so we have a vested interest.”

    Lenderman is a familiar face around the district, visiting classrooms on a daily basis and building relationships with students, teachers, parents and grandparents in the community. He comes to the high school during lunch everyday.

    This year’s district’s theme – is simple: Decide, Commit, Succeed.

    “These kids are our future and I treat them like my own grandchildren. They know me. I build relationships with them so that when I tell them something, they listen to me,” Lenderman said. “Every child is my child and I expect every teacher to look at that the same way. You will do things differently if you look at every child as your own.”

    Part of that relationship is not allowing students to be victims of their circumstances but instead holding them – as well as teachers, parents and administrators – accountable. For Lenderman, it all starts with attitude.

    “In too many schools, if you get out of the box, you get fired,” he said. “I tell everyone – you have the authority to try anything you can. If it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. Get out of the box. There is no box. We burned the box.”

    By Scotty Brewington for the Spark Campaign, an initiative of the Georgia School Boards Association. To read more about the great things happening in Georgia's public schools please visit the Spark Campaign.

  • Indiana

    Engaging in Summer School


    Students outside their high school
    The transition from middle school to high school can be difficult for many students. At Crown Point High School, Assistant Principal Mark Gianfermi came up with a way to combine summer school with a high school transition program.

    The Summer Engage program targets rising ninth graders in danger of failing and offers them a chance to take physical education (PE) along with English and math instruction. The group of about 70 students, who are identified through surveys of their middle school teachers, participate in the six-week program.

    Assigned into teams by the teachers, each student receives a T-shirt with their team name. On Fridays, thanks to a partnership with a local business, they go bowling at a nearby alley.

    Since Summer Engage started in 2010, the high school has seen the graduation rate move from the middle 80th percentile to consistently over 95 percent. And, students who attend the program have a greater chance of graduating in four years than their peers who do not. “The results have been phenomenal and overwhelming,” says Superintendent Teresa Eineman. “Students who struggle the most are achieving the most.”

    Learn more about Crown Point Community School Corporation, Crown Point, Indiana at

  • Kansas

    Tot Spot


    A child and adult playing an educational game inside a van

    About 76 percent of families in Topeka Public Schools live below the poverty line, an increase of 11 percent in just a few years. Along with this change has been an increase in the number of young children who need early intervention services so they can come to school prepared to learn. However, many families weren’t taking advantage of the district’s preschool services because they had difficulty getting transportation to the centers.

    Understanding how important early intervention is, especially with children from disadvantaged families, the school district sought to break the transportation barrier with Tot Spot. With the school board’s blessing, employees repurposed and transformed a “retired” van into a child-friendly, primary colored, polka-dotted mobile therapy unit. The van does more than catch a person’s attention; it delivers speech/language, physical, and occupational therapy, and early childhood services.

    Tot Spot helps families overcome transportation issues and it increased student attendance. Today, the district’s speech and language department serves almost 500 preschoolers at 78 sites! As well as serving the children, Tot Spot helps build relationships between parents and teachers, and that is great for the kids too.

  • New Jersey

    Mainstream ESL Program Scores High

    When a school board makes early intervention for language acquisition a priority, students and their families win!

    More than 60 primary languages are spoken in Piscataway Township Schools, and so immersing students into both conversational and academic language and providing cultural guidance for their families is essential.

    Two young students doing work in a classroom

    The district’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program embeds more than 60 ESL-endorsed teachers, allowing more students to remain in mainstream classrooms. In addition, it provides supports for ESL teachers and their professional development, immersion camps and field trips for students, health services, and even free busing for Saturday programs for students and their families.

    How’s it working out? Great! Piscataway’s ESL program develops academic strengths and increases participation in honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes. In just two years, the district doubled its percentage of ESL students taking AP courses, and saw a rise in overall AP scores.

  • Oregon

    Juntos: Together for a Better Education

    Tillamook School District 9 works diligently to serve its Latino students, which make up a quarter of the student population. However, a persistent achievement gap and poor graduation rates for Latino students spurred school leaders to work even harder to find a solution.

    District officials knew that connecting with parents of junior and high school students was the key to helping students stay in track to graduate. Many parents were not involved in their children’s schooling so the district introduced Juntos, a program of Oregon State University’s Open Campus, which offers workshops with students and parents on high school success and college preparation.

    The workshop sessions bring parents to the high school, possibly for the first time. Faculty, staff, administrators, and school board members attend sessions, meeting the families and answering questions.

    Students in front of their school

    After the initial six weeks, Juntos continues with student clubs, college visits, and GED preparation classes in Spanish at the local community college.

    “Juntos is empowering our Latino community to be more involved in seeing their children succeed and has broken down some of the barriers to closing the achievement gap,” says school board member Kris Lachenmeier. “It has given our board an insight into cultural differences that may be a factor in success.”

    Graduation rates for Latino students have risen since the program started in 2013, with a 100 percent graduation rate for Juntos participants. More than 85 percent of the Juntos students have gone on to college, many with scholarships from the district or their college of choice. Also, 20 Juntos parents enrolled in Spanish GED preparation classes at the community college, and that number may rise in the future.

  • Pennsylvania

    The Patton Project Garden

    Two teachers who wanted their students to learn the value of nutrition and sustainability by growing food started the Patton Project Garden. Today, the garden includes a greenhouse, 30 raised beds, two tunnels, and a pergola with seating for classes. A solar array provides electricity to the greenhouse, and the excess energy is used by the school.

    Students are involved in every aspect of the project, which is designed to provide them with a better understanding of the health benefits of growing and eating fresh food.

    Vegetables growing in a school garden

    They build the beds, plant the seeds, and harvest the yield. In doing so, they learn the real-world application of plant science, biodiversity, and the food web. Students also learn about local and global hunger and possible solutions.

    The district has donated more than 5,000 pounds of fresh produce to the community food bank. The Adopt-A-Bed program encourages family and community involvement and sustains the gardens throughout the summer months and during school holidays. Families also work together to help provide fresh produce for nearly 12 months out of the year.

    Learn more about Unionville-Chadds Ford School District at

  • Texas

    Camp Nobis Est (It’s Up to Us)


    A child on a rope course

    When the Humble ISD Student Support Services staff members discovered that some students were having a difficult time adjusting to middle school, they decided to help. Camp Nobis Est — Latin for “It’s up to us” — was born.

    The weeklong summer camp is open to all students entering middle school. Transportation is provided, and students attend four sessions daily, each addressing a skill identified to help them be ready for and successful in middle school. Sessions focus on time management, organizational skills, and classroom behavior. Camp Nobis Est also invites current high school freshmen and sophomores to mentor students during the camp and to serve as a friendly resource throughout the school year.

    Data shows that students who attend the camp had fewer discipline referrals, were in attendance more often, and had higher academic success!

    Learn more about Humble Independent School District at

  • Wyoming

    Preventing the Achievement Gap

    Fremont County School District No. 6 in western Wyoming is 2,481 square miles, or roughly the size of the state of Delaware. The Wind River Indian Reservation, with students from the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes, takes up 61 percent of the district. In this far-flung, high-poverty region, no licensed day care programs, preschools, or medical service providers are available.

    To address social and academic gaps in children showing up for kindergarten, the district started a preschool. School official knew they weren’t reaching all the children who needed services, but transportation was a major barrier to attendance. Because school funds could not be used for preschool buses, families had to drive their children to school – a hardship for many in this isolated area.

    The idea to bring preschool to families stemmed from the book mobile model. The district overhauled an old school bus, painted it purple, removed the seats, and installed carpeting, furniture, and supplies. Presto! Mobile school ready for duty.

    A child and an adult review paper on a bus

    School staff made phone calls and bus drivers on rural routes suggested families with young children that could benefit from the support. The program started as a pilot in the spring of 2013 with a driver and teacher going to children’s homes. “We immediately began to find students who were well behind developmentally,” says Wind River Elementary School Principal Barney Lacock. “We got them in touch with other school services.”

    The 30-minute session takes place on the bus, often with the parents in attendance, as well. Part of the mobile preschool’s mission is to create a bond between the school district and the families.

    The Purple Preschool Bus has been a great success, and the district is expanding the program to include a nurse to provide health instruction and information.

    In three years, the percentage of students reaching age-appropriate benchmarks has increased 12 percent. Today, 85 percent of students enter kindergarten at or above kindergarten readiness benchmarks.

The Difference Makers

The success of our neighborhood public schools is grounded in the people who support them. Teachers, administrators, superintendents, parent volunteers, school board members and people throughout the community take extraordinary actions to make a difference in students' lives. Our public schools educate nine of every 10 students more than 50 million students and they have helped prepare artists, educators, engineers, health care practitioners, journalists, law enforcement officers, leaders in business and technology, scientists and people in the full array of professions for life. The Difference Makers' commitment to their students have lifted generations of people out of poverty and from middle to higher income. They have helped a child who speaks little English learn to read and a enabled a child with dyslexia to improve their comprehension on a reading test. Multiply these successes, these victories, by the millions, and you have a rich, thorough and true picture of what public education is accomplishing every hour, every day, every year. 

Mandy Manning — Teacher — Spokane, Washington

Ask Mandy Manning, the 2018 National Teacher of the Year, to sum up her experience as a teacher in one word, and her response would be, “empowering.”

Manning, who teaches English and math to refugee and immigrant children at Joel E. Ferris High School, enters her classroom each day ready to be inspired. “When I step into my classroom, I am surrounded by hope,” says Manning. “My students are a symbol of that; everything is available and open to them.”

Public education is a topic Manning, an 18-year teaching veteran, keeps close to her heart. Calling it a “great equalizer,” Manning sees education as an opportunity to promote equity.

“Public schools offer education for every single kid, no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they come from,” she says. “Every student has equal potential in my eyes. Every child can and will be successful."



Cardell Patillo — School Board Member — Portsmouth, Virginia

Cardell Patillo, winner of the 2018 Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award, is the prime example of someone who gives back to the community that raised him. Patillo, who serves on the school board in the community of Portsmouth, Virginia where he grew up, knows that one key to student success is having the support of a mentor.

“The environment in which you're raised only describes your present situation, but access to a great and meaningful public education unlocks the doors to the entire world,” said Patillo.

For over 10 years this difference maker, who is also a pastor at a local church and the executive director of a program that prepares children and their families for lifelong learning, has made it his mission to provide educational and enrichment programs to the students of Portsmouth. From creating “Budget Tours” that discuss school budgeting needs to a mentoring program that has lowered suspension rates and has helped over 900 young men develop leadership skills, Patillo is a leader who advocates for the social and academic welfare of students.





Katherine Pastor — School Counselor — Flagstaff, Arizona

As a school counselor at Arizona’s Flagstaff High School, Katherine Pastor works with a group of 500 students from their freshman year to senior year. She sees first-hand the struggles they face.

A quarter of Flagstaff’s 1,600 students are Native American, and 160 move from reservations to live in an on-campus dorm while in high school. Over the past decade, the school has seen its college acceptance rates jump by 15 percent, and a 50 percent increase in the number of university recruiters that visit the campus.

“The challenge of the job is that nothing is scripted about school counseling. Nothing is scripted about your day,” she says. “The reward is when you see your students meet their unrealized potential.”

Pastor’s students have seen her face hard times as well. In 2013, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and, post-surgery, had to learn how to walk and talk again. Within two years after returning to work, she was named National School Counselor of the Year and honored at the White House.

“If there’s anything that I learned during my recovery, it is the value of perseverance,” she says. “Our students and our staff have seen me at my weakest and my worst. When you live through struggles and then you see your students go through them, it gives you a different perspective.”

Pastor and the Flagstaff staff have doubled down on giving all youth a chance. She created a college application day that includes helping families fill out financial aid forms, and led the development of a new career and counseling center.

“The other day, one of my students signed to play football at the college level, and he got a full ride both for his academics and athletics,” she says. “It was a dream come true, because we knew he desperately wanted to go to college, and this was the way for him to get there. Being in that moment, I felt like I had a little part in shaping his future.”





Akil E. Ross, Sr. — Principal — Lexington County, South Carolina

Dr. Akil E. Ross, Sr., named the 2018 National Principal of the Year by NASSP, knows that to truly be an effective difference maker, you must be willing to work as part of a team.

Under Ross’s 7-year leadership, Chapin High School of South Carolina saw incredible growth. Chapin High School was awarded South Carolina Palmetto’s Finest Award in 2015, and in 2016 graduation rates reached a high of 96% with a 16-point increase in math proficiency among African American students.

Ross’s mantra for the school is, “we are a thousand passions with one heartbeat,” and like a true difference maker, he strives to create a learning environment that challenges students while helping them cultivate and chase their interests.

Ross continues to make a difference. In 2018, he took a new job in the district. As Lexington-Richland 5’s director of secondary education, he coaches and mentors instructional leaders.


David Schuler — Superintendent — Arlington Heights, Illinois

Dr. David Schuler’s plan is simple, he wants to “change public education in this country forever.”

Schuler, who was named the 2018 AASA National Superintendent of the Year, has always been an advocate for public education. His mother was an educator while he was growing up, and that inspired him to become a teacher.

Before becoming the superintendent of Dist. 214, which he has been for the past 13 years, Schuler started his career as a social studies teacher, then moved on to be an athletic director, high school principal, and then superintendent of two schools in Wisconsin. Schuler also served as the 2015-16 AASA President.

Through his work in education, Schuler has pushed to make college more accessible to students. His push has led to a Career Pathway program that offers access to a sequence of career-focused courses, early college credit, internships and career credentials, and the passage of critical education legislation for his district.