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Meet our 2014 Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award winners
Rue is described by colleagues as a “transformational leader” who recognizes the importance of 21st-century skills in preparing students for their future. The district’s mission is to ensure that students are “future ready” for college, the global workplace, and personal success. Under Rue’s leadership, Northwest ISD has defined this readiness as the ability to use digital media responsibly and effectively to communicate, synthesize, and create new knowledge; solve problems and analyze critically; learn from mistakes and adapt to new thinking; and determine validity and relevance of information, among other skills.
To help students develop these skills, the district has equipped all classrooms with projectors, document cameras, and other interactive technologies. In August, every high school student received a Dell Latitude 10 tablet, and all middle school students will receive a Dell tablet next year. The devices are equipped with wireless networking and software, including the district’s filtering system. Recognizing the importance of sustained professional development, the district employs six instructional technology support teachers. These teachers provide just‐in‐time training and support, and they model effective teaching using technology.
In response to a parent survey that showed parents prefer receiving information on the go, Rue oversaw the design and implementation of a district mobile app for Apple and Android devices. The first phase of the app includes district and campus news updates, a staff directory, campus locations, a who-to-call department phone list, and an option to receive push notifications. The second phase will feature access to grades, attendance records, lunch account balances, and more.
As superintendent, Webb has made technological advancements a priority through the district’s second-generation strategic plan, Design II. This plan calls for “flexible learning environments,” with embedded technology and multiple instructional delivery methods. It also calls for the use of data-driven decision making and specialized programs to engage students in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Vancouver’s IT department was restructured to strengthen the collaboration between technology and curriculum and leverage the use of technology devices. To generate excitement for classroom applications of technology, Webb in 2010 directed his team to develop an annual event called the weLearn Technology Showcase. The showcase gives parents and the community a firsthand look at how teachers and students use technology in the classroom. That helped lead to passage of a technology bond levy in February 2013, which will support the move to one-to-one technology over the next six years.
Outside the classroom, Webb has endorsed the digitization of several operations for greater efficiency and cost savings. For instance, the district upgraded its procurement system to eliminate cumbersome traditional purchase orders, saving $1.5 million. All student fees are now collected via an electronic system, and the implementation of GPS routing software has reduced transportation costs by more than $300,000 per year.
Welsh heads a district where nine out of 10 kids live in poverty, and half are learning English as a second language. Despite these challenges, graduation rates at Center High School have increased from 33 percent when Welsh took over as superintendent in the mid-90s to 93 percent in 2012. Technology has played a key role in this transformation, and Welsh has been a driving force in using technology to give students access to resources and learning outside the limits of rural Colorado.
Most district parents do not have home phones, cable television, or computers, let alone internet access, so the school district is the technology hub of the community. Under Welsh’s leadership, and with school board and community support, the district prioritized technology planning as the cornerstone of strategic thinking about students’ future. All district staff have laptops and/or iPads. Students in grades K-5 have iPads, and students in grades 6-12 have either iPads or laptops. Students participate in online assignments, resources, and instructional support through Moodle, Edmodo, web resources, blogs, electronic assignments, and assessments. The district library also houses the public library, with technology access for the public—and Welsh has been seen in the evenings teaching adult technology classes for the community.