Now comes the push for accountability through assessment and for schools to take charge of what comes into their classrooms and libraries from the internet (See our Special Reports on Assessment & Accountability on page 17 and Filtering & Beyond on page 33.)

Yet once again, you and your colleagues are being called on to do more—a lot more—with less.

A lot less? Too soon to say. How much less is not entirely clear just yet. (For some indications, though, see “Bush budget cuts school tech dollars,” front page, and “Funding for Maine laptop program in jeopardy,” page 51.)

What a difference a year makes. It seems like only yesterday America enjoyed booming economic prospects that stretched as far as the eye could see. State and local governments were awash in operating surpluses from sea to shining sea. Presidential candidates, federal lawmakers, governors, and state legislators were only too happy to encourage ambitious plans and to underwrite them at funding levels for education that, for once, were not half bad. Plans involving technology-powered education were especially well received.

In those heady days, it seemed almost possible to roll the quaint, old business cycle into the garage and park it against the wall, just in time to ride merrily along on the NASDAQ-driven bandwagon.

Well, that was then. Business thrived; state and federal tax revenues gushed in.

This is now. And now, educators watch the skies grow darker, feel the thickness permeate the atmosphere. We begin to hear that inelegant refrain we know so well.

Suck it up. Hunker down. It’s belt-tightening time again.

Demands for accountability through assessment are louder than ever. Insistence on internet controls remain in place. Budgets, on the other hand, will be smaller. Assessment and internet management are hot, but some politicians now are turning cool when it comes to funding. What else is new?

Technology for one thing. Without the new and effective technology just now becoming available, neither accountability on a grand scale nor effective control of internet content would be possible—period, full stop.

But even if technology budgets were bulging, no one would reach the desired goals without something far more crucial than the technology itself. When it comes to accountability through assessment and internet management, technology is a requirement, but a secondary one.

The primary requirement is something considerably older and perhaps rarer. The first thing we need, without which technology will avail us little, is good, old-fashioned leadership. Without wise selection, proper preparation, thoughtful implementation, sound evaluation, and regular adjustment, investments in technology will pay small dividends and sometimes will do more harm than good

Piles of hardware and stacks of software can give the false impression of progress. But without savvy leadership—starting with the superintendent and permeating throughout the entire education enterprise—technology initiatives will be for naught.

That’s why it’s so important to stop from time to time and celebrate the top school chiefs who really get it. And that’s exactly what we do on page 14 of this issue. Read about this year’s twelve Tech-Savvy Superintendents. Come join us at the Superintendents’ Technology Summit in Austin, Texas, March 10-12, as we honor these excellent leaders on their numerous achievements.

Our purpose in the awards and the ceremony is not only to recognize individual leaders for their vision and execution, but also to encourage others to emulate this excellent behavior. We need more a lot more tech-savvy superintendents.

Bright-minded men and women dedicated to education and sophisticated in the effective uses of technology will supply the resources this nation needs to prepare another generation of young people for an ever-more-challenging world. As school leaders have done before, they’ll find a way to accomplish this daunting task—whether the politicians make the job easier or harder.

At the end of the day, it’s not what comes from outside that will make the crucial difference. It’s what’s within. It’s down to you. After all, isn’t that why you got into this field in the first place?