A North Carolina school system has won a prestigious national award for excellence, and its superintendent credits the district’s use of technology for such initiatives as distance education, teacher professional development, and data-driven decision making as reasons for the award.

The Iredell-Statesville Schools (I-SS) was recently announced as a recipient of the 2008 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (Baldrige Award), which is the highest presidential honor for organizational innovation and excellence in performance.

The award also was given to two other organizations: Cargill Corn Milling North America, a Minnesota-based manufacturing company, and Poudre Valley Health System, a Colorado-based health care company. The award last went to an educational institution in 2005.

I-SS Superintendent Terry Holliday, who was chosen as North Carolina’s superintendent of the year for 2009 as well, said he believed Iredell-Statesville Schools’ use of distance education was one of the key things that made the district stand out from the 85 Baldrige Award applicants.

“North Carolina was recently recognized … for our learn-and-earn online project. We use virtual distance education so that students can take their classes online,” he said. The program, in its second year, is offered statewide. “But we have a higher percentage of students taking online courses. There were over 500 courses taken [in the Iredell-Statesville Schools] last year, and this year we’re headed toward 1,000,” Holliday added.

Holliday said he thought the district’s offering of both face-to-face and online opportunities for teachers to collaborate on their own professional development and on student learning also enabled I-SS to stand out from the applicant pool.