Oak Ridge and Warren County are the Tennessee Finalists!

Alabama may reign as the National Champion in football, but there is stiff competition coming from Tennessee for the overall grand prize winner of the Tri-State Best K-12 Practices contest.  In the presence of 75+ Tennessee Directors of Schools and Superintendents, the two Tennessee Finalists were revealed at the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS) Legislative and Learning Conference.  [The two Alabama finalists were revealed at the Alabama Association of School Board‘s (AASB) Winter Conference in December.  Click here for information on contest winners Eufaula City Schools and Muscle Shoals City Schools.  Louisiana finalists will be revealed later this spring.]

The winning entries — “Strategic Plan 2020” from Oak Ridge Schools and “STEM Education Program” from Warren County Schools – were selected as the “BEST of the Best Practices” submitted from a diverse and competitive field of high quality Tennessee school system entries.

In the 2nd year of this contest in Tennessee — sponsored by TOSS and LEAN Frog — these two EXCEPTIONAL entries were publicly recognized, and each received a $1,000 cash prize.  Both entries will compete against the contest finalists from Alabama (co-sponsored with the Alabama Association of School Boards/AASB) and from Louisiana (co-sponsored with the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents/LASS) for the Grand Prize of $4,000.  The Grand Prize winner will be recognized at a school board meeting so the local community can share in the school system’s recognition for positively impacting student achievement and promoting the effective and efficient use of public resources.

The Oak Ridge Schools’ “Strategic Plan 2020” was initiated by Superintendent Bruce Borchers in 2016 in cooperation with educators, administrators, and community members.  This insightful plan is designed to achieve five strategic goals: academic excellence, educator excellence, learning environment excellence, operational excellence, and stakeholder excellence.  Each strategic goal has a designated owner.  Each goal is monitored and measured with specific quantitative measures.  ORS uses a scorecard system to track each goal and their associated Key Performance Indicators.  As goals are met they are celebrated throughout the school system. Each goal report is shared with the Oak Ridge Board of Education and the community and new/revised goals and strategies for the next year’s improvements are created based upon analysis and input.   This collaborative Best Practice has promoted stakeholder engagement, transparency, and accountability as ORS prepares students for college, career, and life success.

from L-R: Byron Headrick, Holly Cross (ORS Supervisor of Career Readiness and Communications), Bruce Lay (ORS Executive Director of School Leadership), Sherri Headrick

Warren County Schools partnered with business and industry to develop a comprehensive STEM program centered around Mechatronics-a blend of electronics, mechanics, and computer/processor control technologies critical in manufactured products and the manufacturing process.  Working with local industry and the Tennessee Department of Education, WCS created a Mechatronics Pathway curriculum.  Program enhancements now include robotic stimulators in all schools and the “STEM on Wheels” lab that transports robotic equipment and 3-D printing to the schools.  This successful Best Practice has helped students develop system critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and begins a career path in engineering and industrial manufacturing through the earning of the Level 1 Siemens Mechatronics Industry Certification.

From L to R: Byron Headrick, Bobby Cox (WCS Director of Schools), Sherri Headrick

This year’s Tennessee entries included a wide-range of Best Practices — from a mobile summer feeding program to blended educational opportunities in a suburban/rural area to identifying and helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in postsecondary education.  We thank all of those who took the time to enter the contest and we applaud all your efforts on behalf of the students in Tennessee public schools!

Stay tuned for detailed posts on each finalist from Alabama, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

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INNOVATIVE and AMAZING Alabama Entries for Tri-State K-12 Best Practices Contest

Are you ready for some positive, uplifting news about Alabama public education?

Want to hear about some OUTSTANDING instructional and non-instructional practices that benefit children?

Well the Alabama entries for the “Tri-State Best K-12 Practices”* contest deliver just that.   This year in Alabama, many INNOVATIVE and AMAZING entries were submitted for the Contest!  The number of entries received increased dramatically and the quality was dazzling.  Also, as in the past, several school systems, submitted multiple entries!

This year’s Best Practice entries covered timely and important issues such as the following:

  • Offering new educational opportunities based on the needs of students and their families.
  • Creating programs and organizing entire schools to promote sustainable project based learning.
  • Providing skills, certifications, and job experiences in technical fields;
  • Using survey and assessment data to design programs and practices to better support students’ academic performance and social development
  • Developing detailed outreach plans to encourage and support students in state and national competitions.
  • Designing structures to align activities system-wide to support the school system’s mission and motto.
  • Re-focusing schools’ organizational/administrative structure and physical environment to enhance student experiences during the school year and over the summer in creative and innovative academic activities.
  • Establishing practices to provide more collaboration time for teachers
  • Using social media to celebrate students and staff, promote activities, and increase transparency.
  • Advancing unique professional development opportunities for teachers.
  • Creating programs and practices to address problems such as the summer slide and lack of employment opportunities for students.
  • Ensuring that all students have opportunity to have a nutritious breakfast.

Stay tuned for MORE GOOD NEWS about Alabama as LEAN Frog announces the Finalists for the Alabama portion of the contest at the AASB 2017 Annual Convention Awards Luncheon on Friday, December 8, 2017 in Birmingham!   The two finalists receive $1000.00 and will be eligible for the $4000 grand prize award!


Note: The Tennessee and Louisiana entry acceptance periods are still open.  Tennessee entrance period ends January 23 and Louisiana entrance period ends February 19. We are expecting Innovative and Amazing entries from you as well.  Click here for brainstorming tips on identifying best practices. Click here for posts on previous winners.


* LEAN Frog sponsors the Tri-State Best K-12 Practices Contest for Alabama, Tennessee, and Louisiana public schools in association with the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB), the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS), and the Louisiana Association of School Executives/Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASE/LASS)  LEAN Frog established the contest to give back to public schools and to promote creative and sustainable practices that impact student achievement and encourage the effective and efficient use of public resources.  Started in Alabama in 2014, expanded into Tennessee in 2016 and into Louisiana this year, winners receive public recognition and a cash prize for their successful entries. We will feature a series of posts on the Alabama finalists, followed by Tennessee and Louisiana finalists respectively. 

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And the Winners Are . . . The 2014 Alabama’s Best Non-Instructional Practices Award

This fall, the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB) and LEAN Frog sponsored a contest to recognize Best Practices and Innovations in the non-instructional departments of K-12 public schools.  These Best Practices and Innovations have impacted student achievement and promoted the effective and efficient use of public resources statewide during the last two school years.

From Child Nutrition to Transportation to Student Services, non-instructional departments and programs in public schools across Alabama are implementing creative and sustainable Best Practices.  These Best Practices improve students’ well-being, help prepare them for successful futures, and encourage the involvement of school staff, parents, and the local community.  The entries LEAN Frog received boast some impressive results:

  • A 63% increase in high school breakfast participation rates
  • Promotion of unity and shared responsibility
  • A 5% increase in the number of students with perfect attendance
  • Assistance with motor skills for Special Education students
  • Improved ACT test scores
  • Dramatic decreases in detention
  • Over 98,000 hot meals served to children 18 and under during the summer
  • Reductions in truancy, discipline issues, and tardiness

LEAN Frog and the Alabama Association of School Boards congratulate all of the school systems that submitted entries and thank them for all they do on behalf of Alabama public education.  Award presentations and the winning videos and slides will be featured at the 2014 AASB Conference held December 3-6 in Birmingham, Alabama.

The 2014 Alabama’s Best Non-Instructional Practices Award winners are . . .

Winning Entry ($3,000 Grand Prize)  

Tarrant City Schools – A Creative Approach to Solving Child Nutrition Challenges

Many schools have seen drops in their student breakfast and lunch participation rates since converting to recipes compliant with the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act law.  Even among those students still participating, some Child Nutrition Programs are reporting food waste when complying with standards set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Alabama State Department of Education.  Schools across the nation are grappling with the question, “How do you make nutritious meals that kids enjoy eating?”

Tarrant Intermediate School students demonstrate healthy approaches to problem-solving

Tarrant Intermediate School students demonstrate healthy approaches to problem-solving.  CLICK the photo to see Tarrant’s video submission.

The 2014 “Alabama’s Best” award-winning entry (and winner of the $3,000 grand prize) addresses this question and focuses on how Tarrant City Schools improved their Child Nutrition Program through the implementation of a series of best practices over the last two years.  “With all of the changes that have come about with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, we are continuing to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice and we are striving to implement as many requests as possible within the HHFKA framework. It is an on-going process and we will continue to tweak the program as needed,” said CNP Director Kelley Javinett.

Through their research, Tarrant City Schools discovered that “reduced-price” families missed qualifying for “free” meals by less than $500 per year. As a result, they implemented a Universal Breakfast Program in the spring of 2012.  This program increased breakfast participation across the whole district.  The greatest impact was at Tarrant Elementary, with participation increasing from 54% to 95%. Later in the 2012-13 school year, Tarrant City Schools implemented the Provision 2 option in the federal School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program, thus providing free breakfast and lunch across the entire district, resulting in simplified paperwork, streamlined meal service, and further increased student participation. In the spring of 2013, student focus groups were conducted on student preferences, with the data used to drive purchasing decisions and meal preparation.  Items such as hot wings and buffalo chicken pizza were added to lunch menus. Based on student feedback, the switch was made to 8 oz. plastic milk containers versus traditional cartons, resulting in an increase in milk consumption by 30% daily.   In the spring of 2014, a “Kitchen Cook Off” was held to determine entrée appeal and taste. This data was used to drive Child Nutrition professional development activities.  The sustainable results are increased student participation in breakfast and lunch, greater acceptance of the menu, and more engaged students and staff who feel their voices have been heard.

Runner-Up Winning Entry ($1000 Prize)

Huntsville City Schools – A Role Model for Implementation and Impact

 As the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service points out, “Just as learning does not end when school lets out, neither does a child’s need for good nutrition.” The USDA established the Summer Food Service Program to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals and snacks throughout the summer months when they are out of school. Unfortunately, fewer than eight percent of Alabama students eligible to receive meals in the summer were actually getting them.

Westlawn Middle School students saying a prayer before eating their supper.

Westlawn Middle School students saying a prayer before eating their supper.

Huntsville City Schools’ award-winning second place entry highlights the system’s successful implementation of this program.  Free meals meeting Federal nutrition guidelines are provided to all children 18 years old and under at approved SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children. Huntsville City Schools’ unique approach involved city-wide collaborations such as partnering with other local organizations like Girls Inc. and other groups who have active summer programs, partnering with the city of Huntsville to provide free bus transportation to children who need a ride to school so they can eat, and setting up Alabama’s only SFSP to provide three hot meals per day.  This resulted in almost 100,000 children served.  The number of summer meals served to children across the city was three times as many hot meals provided in all SFSP programs across the entire state of Alabama combined!  As a result, Huntsville City Schools has been identified as a state, regional, and national role model for implementing SFSP.  However, it is the thankfulness of the students and their families that brings the greatest satisfaction to those that implemented the program.

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  I believe this picture (students at Westlawn Middle school praying before eating a hot supper meal) tells you why Huntsville City Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski, along with the Huntsville City School Board, supports the Summer Foodservice Program,” said Child Nutrition Director, Joey Vaughn.

Runner-Up Winning Entry ($1000 Prize)

Sylacauga City Schools – A Committed Team Dedicated to Sustainable Interventions

“Response to Intervention is not a special education initiative; it is a general education obligation.”

Marcus Johnson uttered these words at the 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools Ceremony.  The 2011 National Superintendent of the Year, who coached four Sanger(CA) Unified Schools District schools from the bottom 10% in student achievement to National Blue Ribbon status, discussed the importance of teamwork during his featured presentation at the 2014 Ceremony.  He described a team as “a group of people working together interdependently to meet a common goal and holding each other accountable.”

Sylacauga Success on Saturday--engaging our students in every way!

Sylacauga Success on Saturday–engaging our students in every way!

Sylacauga City Schools’ award winning second place entry, “SOS — Success on Saturday”, demonstrates the role that teamwork and dedication play in helping students achieve.  Students from third through twelfth grades participate in math practice, Leader in Me activities, ENGAGE testing, counseling, school projects, credit recovery, and other supporting activities at no cost.  The program takes place on Saturdays at three Sylacauga City Schools with over 200 students receiving tutoring, homework help, and life counseling. Administrators, counselors, and teachers provide personalized intervention and support; CNP workers provide breakfast, snack, and lunch; and the system’s bus drivers provide safe travel to and from the program.

The academic growth of SOS students is impressive.  Retentions in the ninth and tenth grades have dramatically decreased, while there have been no retentions in the third through fifth and eighth grades in the past year. The program has garnered the support of students, parents, the community, and school staff.  When asked to prioritize student support programs, principals unanimously choose SOS as their number one choice.  As Carol Martin, Director of Instruction and Intervention remarked, “Parents now call and ask if their student can attend SOS, and students even ask to attend!  They recognize what great results we are seeing.  SOS is one of our most successful RTI interventions.”

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“Alabama’s Best” Contest Announced by LEAN Frog and Alabama Association of School Boards

Huntsville, AL – (June 9, 2014) – LEAN Frog in association with The Alabama Association of School Boards Alabama's Best Contest Logo(AASB) is proud to announce an exciting new contest for Alabama Public Schools. The “Alabama’s Best” Award is for Best Practices and Innovations in non-instructional departments.

“Our goal is to shine a bright light on the non-instructional support services that are critically important to student achievement and promote effective and efficient use of public resources” says LEAN Frog President and co-founder Byron Headrick.

  • The winning entry will receive $3000.
  • Two second place winning entries will receive $1000 each.

 This contest is open to all Alabama public school districts. Districts may submit up to three entries describing a Best Practice in their non-instructional departments.  The Best Practice must have been implemented within the last two school years (i.e., 2012-2013, 2013-2014).

Applicants must complete an official entry form and submit either a PowerPoint presentation or video about the best practice.  Entries will be evaluated on the following:

  • Creativity – the uniqueness of the practice or its application
  • Sustainability – practice makes lasting improvement
  • Impact on Students – practice improves student achievement and increases value by 1) improving students’ environment or well-being, 2) improving the quality of service provided to students, or 3) reducing costs or increasing revenue for the school or district

Entry forms, rules and regulations, evaluation criteria and further details will be available on the LEAN Frog website on June 20, 2014.  The competition runs from June 23, 2014 through October 17, 2014.

Award presentations will be made during the AASBA’s Annual Convention in Birmingham, AL.  In addition to the cash prizes, the winning media presentations will be recognized during the AASB’s award ceremony on Friday, December 5, 2014.


Headquartered in Huntsville, AL, LEAN Frog’s mission is to help public schools succeed through increasing the value they deliver to students, parents and communities while fully engaging employees, reducing costs, and building a spirit of continuous improvement. 

The Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB) represents all of the state’s public local school boards. The association’s mission is to develop excellent school board leaders through quality training, advocacy and services.

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