After nearly five years as head of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), former executive director Melinda George has resigned; former deputy director Mary Ann Wolf has been tapped to replace her.

George, who led the Virginia-based nonprofit organization since December 2001, has accepted a position as senior director for PBS TeacherLine, an online professional development project for educators. When contacted by an eSchool News reporter, George, a former teacher, said she wanted to pursue an opportunity to work more closely with classroom educators. Though the decision to leave SETDA was a difficult one, George said, she felt the organization had matured to a point where it could withstand–and possibly even benefit from–a change in leadership.

“I was looking for a change, something to get me one step closer to the education world again,” she said. “Plus, I knew that SETDA would be in good hands.”

Those hands belong to Wolf, who on March 16 was named SETDA’s new executive director. Wolf had served as the organization’s deputy director under George since joining SETDA in May 2002.

A nonprofit organization, SETDA receives its funding through membership dues paid by affiliates in all 50 states. When asked whether the personnel change had anything to do with fiscal constraints affecting the educational technology community at large, Wolf said SETDA is a fiscally “strong” organization and that finances were “not an issue.”

Moving forward, Wolf said, she believes all the pieces are in place to “ensure that [SETDA] continues to be a really strong, growing organization.”

Largely a behind-the-scenes player at the advocacy group until now, Wolf said she is looking forward to taking a more visible role in lobbying for, and representing the interests of, state educational technology directors.

At a time when funding for school technology is in danger of being further cut by Congress, and long-standing initiatives such as the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) block-grant program have once again landed on the chopping block, Wolf says she recognizes these are critical times for the future of educational technology.

After five years in the business, “the learning curve is in our favor now,” she said. “We bring people together…to collaborate–and that strength is going to be what allows us to break new ground.”

While continuing to lobby for the restoration of ed-tech funds and the inclusion of other education programs in the federal budget, Wolf said, SETDA will work to collect data and conduct nationwide research that provides evidence of technology’s positive impact on student achievement, especially as it relates to helping schools meet the demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

SETDA also will continue to produce a series of annual reports, including its “Emerging Trends” report, which tracks how schools are using federal funding for school technology. The latest findings from that report are due out later this month, she said.

Through a grant from the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training, or NCTET, Wolf said SETDA also is developing a series of state-specific reports, designed to help each state better understand how federal funds for school technology are being deployed in local schools.

“A lot of states and districts are just at the very beginning of learning how to use these data,” she said. By helping states organize their findings in a meaningful, cohesive way, Wolf said, the hope is that school technology leaders will be able to provide Congress with hard evidence of technology’s impact on teaching and learning–proof, she said, that the investment “is paying off.”

Despite the change in leadership, Wolf said, SETDA has no immediate plans to change or cancel any of its ongoing initiatives or programs. The organization will continue to host its annual Emerging Technology Forum, for instance, which will be held this year in conjunction with the National Educational Computing Conference in San Diego July 5-7. It also plans to continue sponsoring a series of leadership forums scheduled to take place this fall, she said, adding, “We’re not going to miss a beat.”

In other executive moves, Sara Hall, formerly SETDA’s director of strategic relations, was promoted to deputy executive director. Hall, who also has served as executive director of the Children’s Web Surfing Alliance and worked for the Software & Information Industry Association, will assume Wolf’s old position as the organization’s second in command, where she will be tasked with growing SETDA’s corporate partnership program, its tools and resources, conferences, and other initiatives.

“We are fortunate…to have a very strong team to carry on the important work of SETDA,” said Lan Neugent, the organization’s board chair, in a statement about the change. “The SETDA board of directors and leadership team have every confidence that Mary Ann will take SETDA’s efforts in promoting the benefits of education technology to the next level without missing a beat on providing [high-] quality membership services.”

George’s last day at SETDA is March 22. She begins her new assignment at PBS TeacherLine on March 29.


State Educational Technology Directors Association

National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training

PBS TeacherLine