The move toward an increasingly digital society, and the emergence of a new era of accountability in the nation’s schools, have changed our expectations of the superintendency. As school leaders come to rely on technology and the internet to engage students’ interest, track their progress, personalize instruction, and aid in decision making, an understanding of how technology works and how it can be used to transform teaching and learning is an increasingly essential characteristic for the 21st-century school superintendent.
In our 10th annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards, sponsored by K12 Inc., Promethean, the Pearson Foundation, and JDL Horizon’s Eduvision, eSchool News recognizes 10 of the nation’s top K-12 executives for their outstanding ed-tech leadership and vision. Chosen by the editors of eSchool News with help from last year’s winners, these 10 exemplary leaders will be honored in a private ceremony held in conjunction with the Century Club 100 meeting at the American Association of School Administrators’ annual conference in Phoenix Feb. 11.
Burlington Public Schools
Although Eric Conti has been the superintendent of Burlington Public Schools (BPS) for only a year and a half, in this short period of time the district has progressed from not having a clear plan for using technology to among the ed-tech leaders in Massachusetts.
Immediately after his arrival, Conti started the first BPS blog to help connect stakeholders with the district. Now, there are at least 25 blogs operated by classroom teachers and extra-curricular groups, and new ones are added routinely to keep community members engaged and informed.
Conti hosted a Technology Night in October 2008 to raise awareness of the district’s need for technological improvements. He says the district must stop thinking about technology as an add-on, and instead think of it as another utility–as essential to the district’s operation as heat or electricity.
Burlington is one of the only school systems in Massachusetts to move to a cloud-computing model. The Burlington Link, or BLINK, gives all teachers, staff, and students equal access to the same applications online, both at school and from home. By using open-source applications and managing other software licenses through the cloud, BPS will be able to free up more money for hardware purchases, Conti believes. The district also will save on manpower, because updates won’t have to be loaded individually on hundreds of computers.
Cullman City Schools
Jan Harris has overseen a nationally recognized one-to-one laptop program in Cullman City high schools since 2005, and officials have tracked a 13-percent increase in test scores in recent years. She has introduced new forms of online communication, and in a recent state survey, 95 percent of the district’s teachers said they have sufficient access to technology and training.
Under Harris’s leadership, the district has secured more than $500,000 in grant money to support its laptop program for students in grades 7-12. During the time the laptop program has existed, writing scores are up, attendance has improved, and discipline referrals have dropped by 40 percent. What’s more, the number of honor roll recipients has increased by 12 percent.
The laptop program has brought national recognition to the district. The National School Boards Association chose Cullman City as one of its three technology “Salute Districts” for 2009, and district officials were invited to speak about the initiative at NSBA’s Technology + Learning conference in 2006. District officials also discussed the laptop program at the Alabama Education Technology Conference in 2007 and 2008, and Cullman City was asked to host the Alabama Technology Regional Meeting in 2007 in recognition of its status as a state leader in technology use.
Harris is continually looking for ways to improve and to make sure the district is meeting the needs of today’s learners. She encourages her staff to read books such as The World is Flat and Web Literacy for Educators, and she recently hosted Alan November’s team of technology experts, who came to observe Cullman City classrooms and make recommendations for improving the district’s use of technology.