eSchool News’ 2002 Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards

Mark Edwards, Henrico County (Va.) Public Schools

As superintendent of Henrico County Public Schools in Virginia, Edwards inked a deal with Apple Computer last May to lease 23,000 iBooks so every middle and high school student and teacher could have his or her own laptop computer. The four-year, $18.5 million initiative—believed to be the largest single deployment of laptop computers in education to date—also includes wireless internet access, software, filtering, professional development to ensure the equipment is used effectively, and extensive, ongoing technical support. In addition, each elementary classroom in Henrico County is equipped with five iMac computers.

Since Edwards became superintendent in 1994, individualized education plans for special education students have been made available online, so parents, teachers, and administrators can access them at any time. The district also hired a full-time web master to expand its web site and provide internet training, which has enabled all 63 schools in the county to have their own web site. Finally, all schools use MacSchool, an online grading and attendance system from Chancery Software.

Joe Kitchens, Western Heights Public Schools (Oklahoma City, Okla.)

Selected in 1998 to become a ComputerWorld Smithsonian Laureate, Kitchens has served on the Fourth Annual Microsoft Superintendent’s Roundtable, Dell Computer’s Education Platinum Council, and the EdNet99 National Education Advisory Council. Kitchens was instrumental in developing JetNet, a highly advanced telecommunications network capable of integrating technology and instruction to a level described by Bill Gates as “perhaps the leading technology- driven curriculum in the country.” He is also the chairman of the Oklahoma VISION (Virtual Internet School In Oklahoma Networks) project.

Thanks to Kitchens’ vision and commitment to improving learning through technology, the students of Western Heights routinely use computer and videoconferencing technology in their everyday studies. Each building is connected to a main server at the high school campus via fiber-optic lines to create the JetNet local area network. Five network ports in each classroom bring the internet and videoconferencing to the students. The network is linked to the internet through a speedy T1 line.

Kitchens has been involved in his district’s technology planning since it began eight years ago. In the summer of 1994, as assistant superintendent, he served on an advisory committee to study how best to upgrade the district’s technology capabilities. After consulting with engineers and meeting for four months, the committee submitted its plan to the school board, along with a recommendation that a bond issue of $9 million be approved—half for building infrastructure and half for the installation of a network. In March 1995, the bond issue passed overwhelmingly, and the rest is history.

Richard Maier, Will County School District 92 (Lockport, Ill.)

Four years ago, under Maier’s direction, Will County began to investigate ways to add local area network (LAN) connections to classrooms in its four elementary schools. Facing building structures that would not easily support internet-based computing, Maier and the district chose a wireless approach and became a pioneer in this newly evolving area. Two schools are now totally wireless and two have portable wireless computer labs, and teachers and students benefit from the flexibility that a wireless environment provides.

Last year, Will County teachers began the new school year with their own iBook laptop computers, part of Maier’s continuing effort to help support teachers use technology as an instructional tool. The laptop initiative has also helped bridge communication among teachers and parents through the regular use of eMail.

Recently, Maier was selected to serve as an administrative representative from Illinois to Japan through the Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program. Maier communicates this cross-cultural experience through multimedia presentations that are offered to the schools and local community.

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