Ten of the nation’s top superintendents received a special tribute for their outstanding leadership in the field of educational technology Feb. 23.

The occasion was eSchool News’ third annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards, sponsored by Gateway Inc. At a private ceremony held in conjunction with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) conference in New Orleans, this year’s award winners accepted plaques and some well-deserved praise for guiding their districts effectively into the Information Age.

In recognition of technology’s growing influence on the nation’s schools, eSchool News launched its annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards program in 2001 to publicize school district CEOs who have demonstrated a remarkable vision for implementing technology to meet their district’s educational goals, and to encourage other school leaders to follow suit.

As K-12 educators come to rely on computers and the internet to help them deliver instruction, track student progress, and aid in decision making, an understanding of how technology works and how it can be used to improve education has become increasingly important for today’s superintendents.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that two of our Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award winners this year also were finalists in their respective states for AASA’s Superintendent of the Year Award, as—in keeping with the theme of this year’s AASA conference, Leadership in Changing Times—today’s school leaders must have a thorough understanding of how to harness technology’s power to transform education in the 21st century,” said eSchool News Managing Editor Dennis Pierce.

He was referring to Donna Peterson of the Kenai Peninsula School District in Alaska and Tom Scullen of the Appleton Area School District in Wisconsin, both of whom were selected by AASA to represent their states in the organization’s Superintendent of the Year Award program.

Following a brunch of eggs benedict at the legendary Arnaud’s restaurant in the French Quarter, Pierce talked about the importance of technology in helping school leaders meet the rigorous demands of the No Child Left Behind Act.

“With proper planning and leadership, technology can help you make better decisions and ensure that every child meets rigorous standards for learning, as you and your colleagues in other forward-looking districts are demonstrating,” he said. “It can help you pinpoint every student’s exact skill level, deliver supplemental instruction targeting each child’s specific curricular needs, and compare student data across all subjects, grade levels, or socio-economic backgrounds. It can do all of these things and many more, perhaps limited only by the vision of senior school leaders such as yourselves.”

Pierce also outlined what he called the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective School Technology Leaders,” noting that each award winner was chosen because he or she exemplifies these traits.

Following Pierce’s remarks, Paige Scott, an account executive from Gateway, handed out the awards. This year’s winners, in alphabetical order, are:

Kenneth Bird, Westside Community Schools, Nebraska. At the state level, Bird helped develop Nebraska’s comprehensive K-12 State Technology Plan. At the local level, he is known as a visionary who uses technology to keep parents, staff, and students engaged in the work of educating each child. The Westside Schools system also is recognized as Nebraska’s virtual high school.

Kenneth Eastwood, Oswego City Schools, New York. After eight years with the Oswego City Schools, Eastwood has transformed a technologically depressed school system into a nationally recognized model for technology integration. For teachers to have standards-based lessons that incorporate technology, he created a web site that has everything teachers need to be successful. To extend the learning day, he gave teachers and students the ability to do school work from home by installing application servers that provide access to the district’s software from home via the internet.

L. McLean King, Lemon Grove School District, California. King spurred the creation of the “Connected Learning Community,” a complex network of high-speed connections providing voice, data, and video streaming capabilities to more than 4,600 students in all eight schools across the district, as well as to other community agencies. To ensure that technology is used to its full advantage, every teacher completes 120 hours of professional development courses. In a district where 65 percent of all children receive free or reduced-priced lunches, King has used technology to foster student improvement by closing the achievement gap.

Wilfredo Laboy, Lawrence Public Schools, Massachusetts. Since his arrival in 2000, Laboy has both implemented and aggressively streamlined technology in his financially challenged district. He has used technology to align the district’s curriculum with Massachusetts state standards, developed a tool for assessing student achievement against these benchmarks, launched a computer-based, after-school initiative that teaches reading via computers to students who need supplemental instruction, and provided continuous professional development for teachers.

Frank P. Mancuso, Warren County Technical School District, New Jersey. During his 12-year tenure, Mancuso has transformed the district from a single-style learning environment to a student-centered environment in which all students have a chance to succeed. With the help of numerous grants, the district has provided its staff of 50 and student body of 400 with 300 multimedia computers, 24-hour-a-day internet access, and two fully interactive television classrooms linked to locations throughout the world through a video portal.

Donna Peterson, Kenai Peninsula School District, Alaska. In her three years as superintendent, Peterson has turned a district serving 9,800 students spread across 26,000 square miles into a model of ed-tech innovation, enabling it to overcome its unique geographical challenges. To increase network speed, she helped secure 100 miles of fiber-optic cable. She arranged for the installation of 2,700 new personal computers and has instituted key changes to close the opportunity gaps for students.

Tom Scullen, Appleton Area School District, Wisconsin. Every school in the district has internet-connected computers in its classrooms, a technology staff-development trainer, and new student-management software that is empowering students, parents, and educators with access to real-time information. Scullen also spearheaded the installation of a fiber-optic backbone through a creative, multi-town cooperative effort, and he oversaw the implementation of two virtual charter schools this past fall.

Kaye Stripling, Houston Independent School District, Texas. Determined to put powerful technology into the hands of educators, Stripling secured grants to provide 12,000 laptops to teachers and administrators at no cost to the district. Under her leadership, the district’s web portal has been completely revamped to become a more useful tool, and teachers have access to online resources such as a data disaggregating tool that allows them to analyze student test data and plan for students’ success.

Larry Wallen, Pinon Unified School District #4, Arizona, was unable to attend the awards ceremony.

Youssef Yomtoob, Hawthorn School District 73, Illinois. When Yomtoob arrived seven years ago, he envisioned a learning environment with data-enhanced instruction tailored to the needs of individual students. To empower his vision, he budgets more than $100,000 a year for individualized staff development, and he instituted a program of evening technology courses in which parents and students can access technology and tap the know-how of the district’s most tech-savvy teachers. In addition, every Hawthorn teacher and administrator who pledges to improve technology instruction receives a laptop computer.