At a Feb. 21 luncheon sponsored by computer maker Gateway Inc., eSchool News honored 10 superintendents for their exemplary leadership and vision in using technology to improve education.

Winners of the newspaper’s Fourth Annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards, announced in February, were chosen by their peers in conjunction with eSchool News editors. They were recognized in a ceremony held in conjunction with the American Association of School Administrators’ Annual Conference in San Francisco.

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.

“Used to be, when you talked about what makes an effective information-age school leader, it was someone who understood that today’s students need to be able to collect information, analyze it, and use it to form a higher level of understanding. Computers and internet access were the tools to facilitate this inquiry-based approach to learning, and effective information-age school executives were those who worked to provide equitable access to these tools for all students, trained teachers to integrate them into instruction, and fought for the financial and technical support necessary to ensure that these tools would remain available and reliable so teachers and students could count on their use,” said Dennis Pierce, managing editor of eSchool News, in his address to the winners.

“Today, while these characteristics are all still essential, you can add to that list the ability to use technology yourselves as tools of inquiry and understanding. The mandate that no child be left behind–and no student go untested–has made it vital for you and your staff to use sophisticated technology systems to identify students or groups of students who are failing and target instruction accordingly. The tangle of federal rules and the flow of corresponding funds requires the use of robust software to ensure that rules are met and funds are spent accordingly.”

Pierce concluded: “As Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award winners, you all have led the transition from 20th-century school district executive, who oversaw the teaching of these skills to students, to 21st-century district leader, who practices them in your daily responsibilities. You model the effective use of technology in your day-to-day execution of the superintendency. You exhibit a thorough understanding of the role technology can play in educating students, streamlining school district operations, and ensuring the overall success of your schools. You also demonstrate exceptional vision in recognizing how emerging technology solutions can solve new challenges.”

Following Pierce’s remarks, John Cowie, director of K-12 and higher education for Gateway, presented the awards. This year’s winners are:

  • Milt Dougherty, Unified School District 444, Kansas
  • Ann Hart, Catawba County Schools, North Carolina
  • Michael Jacobsen, Weber School District, Utah
  • Sheldon Karnilow, Half Hollow Hills Central School District, New York
  • Rodney Lafon, St. Charles Parish Public Schools, Louisiana
  • Louis Martinez, Las Cruces Public Schools, New Mexico
  • Cameron M. McCune, Fullerton School District, California
  • Mike Moses, Dallas Independent School District, Texas
  • Jim Ray, Spartanburg School District Three, South Carolina
  • Karen Woodward, Lexington County School District One, South Carolina
Seven key characteristics of tech-savvy superintendents

Vision. Tech-savvy superintendents demonstrate exceptional vision in leading the development and implementation of a district-wide technology plan. They understand how technology can be used to improve student learning and the quality of instruction, as well as how it can be employed to streamline school district business operations. Furthermore, they recognize how technology can be used as a tool to meet the strategic goals of their districts, rather than as an end in itself.

Commitment. Tech-savvy superintendents recognize technology’s importance and commit sufficient resources in their budgets to sustain it. They insist that adequate professional development is a component of every technology initiative. The professional development they provide for their teachers and staff members is ongoing and targets their specific needs, rather than a series of isolated, hit-or-miss workshops. To ensure a learning return on their technology investments, they also budget for and provide adequate support for technology resources.

Foresight. Tech-savvy superintendents think strategically about the long-term challenges and opportunities that technology presents in their districts and in education at large. They build a vision of sustainability into their technology plans by budgeting for the life cycle of computers and taking into account their total cost of ownership. They recognize that new developments and advancements in technology occur rapidly and are ready to adjust their plans accordingly to reflect ongoing change.

Communication. Tech-savvy superintendents not only exhibit a thorough understanding of technology’s role in education; they also can articulate this understanding to all school district stakeholders and raise support for their technology programs. Furthermore, they demonstrate leadership in using technology to enhance communication between their schools and the community at large, as well as internal communication among staff.

Equitability. Tech-savvy superintendents ensure that technology resources are equitably distributed among students and staff members. They also use technology to provide greater equity in the delivery of educational services to students and families in an effort to close the performance gap between students of different backgrounds.

Creativity. Tech-savvy superintendents demonstrate curiosity and open-mindedness in considering emerging technologies and weighing non-traditional solutions to traditional problems. They’re not afraid to try unique approaches to using technology for meeting the specific needs and goals of their districts.

Leadership. Tech-savvy superintendents provide exceptional leadership in supporting the integration of technology into the curriculum. They model the effective use of technology in their day-to-day execution of the superintendency. Their leadership extends beyond the borders of their school districts to include county, state, and national involvement.