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Trillium Creek Primary School Named 2014 James D. MacConnell Award Winner


WASHINGTON, DC (October 15, 2014) — After reviewing over 25 exceptional projects and narrowing them down to four finalists, the jury unanimously selected Trillium Creek Primary School in Wilsonville School District (West Linn, OR) designed by Dull Olson Weekes – IBI Group Architects, as this year’s winner of the James D. MacConnell Award.  Presented at the recent Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) Annual Conference in Portland, OR, this prestigious award recognizes a comprehensive planning process that results in educational facilities that serve the community, enhances the educational program, and meets multiple goals.


Through a very authentic process that engaged students and their voices, one student shared: “I want to be the Captain of My Own Learning,” which became the basis of how the project developed.  Named for the headwaters of a creek that begins within the schoolyard, Trillium Creek embraces multiple elements of sustainable designs and unique, playful features stemming from the collaborative planning process engaging the students, district and community from the outset.


The inclusive design process challenged standard practices and shaped a beautiful setting and delightful spaces that support re-imagining education.  The slide in the library and the way the cafeteria addresses issues of health and wellness are indicative of the aspirations of contemporary education.    A strong sense of community drove the use of interior glazing and the “see-through” design of the building.   More than one of the jurors stated during deliberations: “This school makes me want to go back to school.”


Renée Alexander, AIA, Chair of the James D. MacConnell International Award Jury, remarked, “Through the collaborative and inclusive planning process, Trillium Creek emerged as a kid-friendly, delightful facility with innovative spaces for learning.”


Three other exceptional schools were selected as MacConnell Award finalists.  Marine Science Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut, Learn Regional Educational Service Center, designed by JCJ Architecture, was the result of a decade-long commitment to develop a new type of school reflecting the culture and values of the community and region and prepare their students for  higher education and/or marine-related careers.  The unique design of this learning facility supports the innovative management, curriculum and great variety of spaces for learning.


Integrus Architecture brought the diverse interests of a small community together to create its only high school – Vashon Island High School, Vashon Island School District.  As a one-high-school district, the challenge to be all things for all people in this highly educated, informed and activist community was paramount. An extensive community planning process shaped a complex yet elegant Vashon Island High School, encompassing a commitment to the arts; a culture of tolerance, respect and support; and respect for the natural environment in which it resides.


Carved into a hillside, Wilkes Elementary School, Bainbridge Island School District designed by Mahlum Architects, demonstrates exceptional use of the site with strong ties to outdoor learning spaces.  While intimate educational spaces comprise a major part of the facility, public connections are evident in the communal and social spaces. As a result of the visual and physical connectivity, Wilkes is able to address the needs of the whole child, so that powerful learning happens everywhere.


The Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) is the only professional organization whose principal purpose is improving the places where children learn.  CEFPI embraces a diverse group of professionals with one single goal – building healthy, safe, resilient and sustainable 21st Century learning spaces that enhance student and teacher performance and support culture and community vitality.  To learn more, visit www.cefpi.org.


State Education Leaders Look to Peers for Help Navigating Tough Issues at Start of NASBE Annual Conference


DENVER—Oct. 16, 2014—The largest annual gathering of members of state education boards began three days of meetings discussing everything from Common Core State Standards to health policies.

One expert described it as a year of “major transitions” for state boards. Members of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) serve as unbiased brokers for education decision-making, focusing on the big picture, articulating the long-term vision and needs of public education, and making policy based on the best interests of the public and young people.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Leaders Learning from Leaders.” NASBE members noted that this is the first year of full Common Core implementation, with states scheduled to assess students under the new state standards for English and math. In addition, they expressed eagerness for congressional action on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

In the first general session, Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director, National School Boards Association, and Kristen Amundson, executive director, NASBE, shared ideas about how these local and state boards can work together to improve schools. They both agreed there are forces that try to drive “wedges” between state and local boards and that ongoing dialogue can prevent such divisions.

Gentzel said, “School boards aren’t a special interest group; they are representing the constituents who elect them.”

Amundson believes that state boards should engage with communities in a clear strategic planning process and then present the plan they will be trying to implement.

There were suggestions about how little things can improve understanding, such as an information packet that can help local and state boards understand each other’s roles.

The meeting covered a range of issues, including early learning, the academic impacts of state health policies, and policy and practice to help turnaround schools. Steve Barnett, director, National Institute for Early Education Research, told attendees that state per-pupil spending on pre-kindergarten programs has dropped by more than $1,000 in the past decade. He urged NASBE members to push for more investments and to learn from each other about quality early learning programs.

The first David A. Kysilko Award, named after a longtime senior NASBE executive, was presented to its namesake for his service to the association. In his honor, NASBE announced a partnership with Project UNIFY®, which brings students of different abilities together to create supportive relationships. Project UNIFY operates in nearly 3,000 schools in 45 states. The project integrates Special Olympics programs into a youth-led model of student engagement and focuses on developing school communities where all youth are agents of change—fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities.




The National Association of State Boards of Education represents America’s state and territorial boards of education. Our principal objectives are to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking; advocate equality of access to educational opportunity; promote excellence in the education of all students; and assure responsible lay governance of education. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.