Technology Champion

A strong technology program starts with effective leadership and vision at the top, and Seattle’s Shoreline School District is no exception.

Since Marlene Holayter took over as its superintendent in July 1998, Shoreline has made great strides in improving its technology initiatives, according to the district’s deputy superintendent of management and technology, Gil Noble. “There has been nothing in technology that has had a positive impact on kids that she has not supported,” he said.

Holayter has been instrumental in moving the district toward a true “community school” approach, Noble said. For example, “she has a vision of every student having an electronic cumulative folder for their entire time in Shoreline Public Schools and having such available for the parents to browse and review,” he said.

“After we implement the student portfolios, we hope to eventually have our whole curriculum online. We really hope to expedite the integration process. My goal is that in the next two years, it will be implemented,” added Holayter.

Holayter is grateful for the advantages Shoreline has had from the start, and she is excited about the school system’s future.

“Shoreline has a wonderful history because it is fiber–linked already. A visionary superintendent and a strong community could see the potential for fiber optics, so we have had that for seven or eight years. Now we also have a lot of hardware, but we are refitting and adjusting to make sure we have the proper framework for the future,” she said.

Shoreline has yet to reach its ultimate technology goal, however. “We are standardizing the district. Right now, we have several different types of eMail, for example, and we hope to go to just one,” Holayter explained.

Despite the hodgepodge of software that made it difficult to communicate between district employees and even harder to give technical support, Noble says great advances have been made in Shoreline’s technology integration. He believes Holayter has been at the forefront of leading district staff toward true integration of technology into the curriculum, and he provided two examples of her technology leadership.

“First is Marlene’s caring realization that many students need nontraditional methods of instruction to learn deeply. Because of this, Marlene has taken a leadership role in our investigation and use of alternative delivery systems, all of which are technology-dependent. In this case—as with many—the technology is the investment, while the profit is found in student learning,” he said.

A second example is her support of innovative Technology Scout Teams, Noble said. This process involves teaming up experts on curriculum and technology with six to 10 teachers in the field, so that each team can identify goals, examine best practices, and use its knowledge to customize a technology integration plan that fits the teachers’ specific curriculum needs.

Noble explained how the Technology Scout Teams work using an example: “If middle school science is being reviewed for technology integration, two handfuls of middle school science teachers would work closely with their district science coordinator and a technology staff member to research what technologies are having a positive impact on middle school students across the country.”

The teams use many tools in their efforts to integrate technology successfully into Shoreline’s classrooms, including calls to colleagues, site visits, and journal reviews. “The plans they develop include not only the necessary hardware and software, but also the training plans for teachers and the facilities issues which may need to be addressed,” Noble said.

He also commends Holayter for the example she sets in her own use of technology to streamline and clarify upper-level district tasks.

“Marlene does not just espouse using technology, she uses it! Be it a PTA meeting in which she is presenting or a general staff meeting, her use of presentation software leads by setting an example of how an administrator should be representing Shoreline Public Schools,” he said.

Holayter’s belief in the power of technology to transform public education is a strongly held conviction, a fact that is evidenced by the high percentage of principals who followed her lead in receiving special training at the state’s Smart Tools Academy last summer, Noble said.

“Smart Tools is a great program funded by Microsoft and the University of Washington. All principals and superintendents across the state are invited, and the intent is to raise the technology expectation level for administrators,” Holayter said.

The Smart Tools program, which is in its second year, takes place several times a year for three days, and in three different locations across the state. All attendees receive a computer loaded with useful software for administrative purposes at the end of their training session.

Holayter’s illustrious career in education has spanned more than a quarter of a century. After graduating with a master’s degree in education from the University of Washington, she went on to receive her doctorate in education from George Washington University.

Her career as an educator began shortly after receiving her bachelor’s degree, when she accepted a job as a middle school vice principal. She later served as an adjunct professor and lecturer at the University of Washington and principal of a Washington state elementary school.

Moving on to Washington, D.C., Holayter spent a year as the associate director of the National Assessment Project, run by the Council of Chief State School Officers. This led to a directorship at the University of Washington’s Center for the Assessment of Administrative Performance, until Holayter again decided to return to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

From 1981 to 1992, Holayter worked for Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia, the 10th largest school district in the U.S., with 211 schools and 133,000 students. In Fairfax County, Holayter served as an elementary school principal, district coordinator of instruction, acting assistant superintendent and director of employment services, area administrator, and finally Area II superintendent.

Returning to her home state of Washington in 1992, Holayter accepted a position as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Olympic Educational Service District 114.

In 1994, she served as assistant superintendent for learning services for the Peninsula School District before accepting a position as executive director for the Commission on Student Learning in Olympia, Wash.

Holayter’s two decades of experience have culminated in a bid for the presidency of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) this year.

Holayter emphasizes the importance of the human touch in school administration, according to those who work closely with her.

“Marlene’s impact on technology in Shoreline Public Schools— and in the many, many other districts that follow her forward thinking—involves administrators. Marlene knows that excellent administrators help make schools excellent,” Noble said.

Shoreline School District

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