The growing influence of technology in the nation’s schools is changing our expectations of the superintendency. As schools begin to rely on computers and the internet to engage students’ interest, track their progress, 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 valued characteristic for the 21st-century school executive.
In our first-ever Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards, eSchool News recognizes 10 of the nation’s top K-12 executives for their leadership and vision in the area of educational technology. Chosen by the editors of eSchool News in consultation with our esteemed advisory board members, these 10 outstanding men and women lead by their example. Many were nominated by their peers; all share a forward-looking vision and a strong commitment to school reform through the judicious use of technology to improve teaching and learning.
Anthony Amato, superintendent of Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut
Amato came to Hartford with a vision to make the city one of the best-connected in the nation—and, in less than two short years, his vision quickly is being realized.
Under Amato’s leadership, the Hartford Public Schools have implemented a 47-site wide area network (WAN) that includes all public schools, libraries, and—eventually—all city agencies. This high-speed network, funded largely through the eRate, delivers internet protocol (IP) telephony, intranet resources, and internet services to more than 18,000 computers throughout Hartford. Amato also plans to offer free internet access to every Hartford family with school-age children, and each family will receive a digital companion from the district’s computer-refurbishing program. He currently is negotiating with textbook publishers and technology organizations to create the district’s own internet portal, with web-based curriculum customized to Hartford’s content goals and objectives in each subject area.
Amato has achieved technology integration across multiple grade levels and subject areas. For example, third-, fifth-, seventh-, ninth-, and 10th-graders practice reading, writing, and math skills using computers for an average of 20 minutes a day as part of an aggressive computer-aided instruction program. Forty-four preschool-level classrooms each have four Little Tykes computer kiosks that support a grant-funded research project with United Technologies and Eastern Connecticut State University to determine the best use of technology for 3- and 4-year-olds. At the secondary level, students and teachers use a diverse array of technology resources, including information technology academies, as tools for teaching and learning.
As the former superintendent of a New York City school district, Amato built one of the largest laptop programs in the nation, providing more than 5,000 mobile computers to some of the poorest families in the city. Research on this Microsoft “Anytime, Anywhere Learning” initiative found that students who used laptops had statistically significant higher academic outcomes, better attendance, and greater degrees of parent involvement.
Amato also has participated in several ed-tech forums and panels for the U.S. Department of Education, including a satellite town meeting in September to discuss how well-designed school buildings can be powerful tools to enhance K-12 education and the Forum on Technology in Education, which met in December 1999 to discuss new national priorities for using technology in education. This latter forum was instrumental in producing the new national ed-tech goals that former Secretary Richard Riley just released.
Barbara Grohe, superintendent of Kent School District in Washington
As superintendent of the fourth-largest school district in Washington, Grohe provides leadership for 26,400 students and more than 3,100 staff members. Before joining Kent, Grohe served as the superintendent of districts in Wisconsin and Iowa. In each district she has overseen, technology has been a core component in increasing student achievement.