How to be an effective 21st-century education leader

Being tech savvy is now an expected part of the job for today's school superintendents.

Today’s K-12 superintendents must be forward thinkers, bold leaders, and skilled communicators in order to lead their schools effectively in the 21st century, said the winners of eSchool News’ 2012 Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards.

Sponsored by GlobalScholar and JDL Horizons, the 12th annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards recognized 10 senior school district executives from around the nation who demonstrate outstanding leadership and vision in using technology to advance their district’s goals.

The winners were honored at a special awards ceremony Feb. 18. The ceremony was held in conjunction with the Century Club 100’s annual meeting during the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education in Houston.

“Back when we started this program 12 years ago, an understanding of technology and how it could be used to streamline school operations and improve teaching and learning wasn’t necessarily common among superintendents, but I don’t think the same could be said today,” eSchool News Editor-in-Chief Dennis Pierce said in presenting the awards. “Today, it’s now an expected part of the job.”

But while there is now a broad consensus on the importance of technology in schools, implementing it effectively is still a challenge, Pierce noted—especially in today’s economy.

“Being tech savvy today means not just understanding the need to support technology and keep systems up to date; it also means having the skills to communicate this need to board members and the community, especially when budgets are shrinking,” he said. “And being tech savvy means not just filling classrooms with more stuff, but really leading a change in instructional practices to better meet the needs of today’s students. … These are among the many challenges that [this year’s winners] are meeting in their schools, and we’re proud to acknowledge their success.”

November challenged listeners to consider students' home environments, too.

The ceremony featured a keynote speech from Alan November, a former classroom teacher and ed-tech pioneer who co-founded the education consulting firm November Learning. November challenged his listeners to make sure they include students’ home environments in their strategic plans.

“What is your plan for making every home a center of learning?” he asked those in attendance. “I’m concerned that we’re spending too much time fixing schools as the dominant focus in helping children succeed.”

(To watch Alan November’s keynote speech, click here.)

Before the ceremony, the winners sat down with Pierce to discuss the qualities they think are important for today’s superintendents, the initiatives they’re most proud of having led in their schools, and the advice they’d give to colleagues in piloting schools effectively in the Information Age.

To hear what the winners had to say, click here.

The Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards recognize excellence in ed-tech leadership from the very top level of school district administration, and they hold these exemplary leaders up as models for others to follow. The awards are presented by eSchool News with additional support from the Consortium for School Networking and its “Empowering the 21st Century Superintendent” program.

To watch the full 2012 awards ceremony, click here.

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2012 Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award winners discuss the keys to their success

The winners of eSchool Media’s 12th annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards, sponsored by GlobalScholar and JDL Horizons, were honored at a special awards ceremony Feb. 18.

Before the ceremony, the winners sat down with eSchool News Editor-in-Chief Dennis Pierce to discuss the qualities they think are important for today’s superintendents, the initiatives they’re most proud of having led in their schools, and the advice they’d give to colleagues in piloting schools effectively in the Information Age.

To hear what these exemplary leaders had to say, click on the headlines below. 

 

Mark Evans: The ‘three Cs’ that ed tech can help address

For Mark Evans, being a tech-savvy superintendent means “always looking down the road,” with an eye toward how technology can help school districts achieve what he calls the “three Cs”: classroom engagement, cost efficiency, and communication.

 

Daniel Frazier: ‘Bold leadership’ is needed for today’s schools

Daniel Frazier, superintendent of Iowa’s Sioux Central Community School District, believes the most important thing school leaders need to do today is “show bold leadership.”

 

Nicholas Gledich on the importance of ‘pausing and planning’

Nicholas Gledich, superintendent of the Colorado Springs School District 11 in Colorado, says one of the things his district has learned is the value of “pausing, planning, and executing” when it comes to ed-tech implementation.

 

Michele Hancock: The key to ed-tech success is ‘constantly communicating’

Michele Hancock, superintendent of the Kenosha Unified School District in Wisconsin, attributes much of her district’s ed-tech success to constant communication with stakeholders.

 

Michael Hanson: How he’s taken his district from worst to first in ed tech

When Michael Hanson became superintendent of California’s Fresno Unified School District in 2005, the district was on the verge of a state takeover, and an audit revealed it was the worst in the state in terms of ed-tech use. That’s no longer the case.

 

C.J. Huff: Creating new possibilities from unspeakable tragedy

On May 22, 2011, the town of Joplin, Mo., lost six schools in an EF5 tornado that killed 160 people and displaced half the student body. Joplin currently has about 3,200 students living in temporary facilities. In spite of these challenges, the district is leading the way in using technology to transform instruction under the guidance of Superintendent C.J. Huff.

 

Jerri Kemble: Today’s superintendents must be ‘willing to take risks’

Jerri Kemble, superintendent of the Centre School District in Lost Springs, Kansas, knows first-hand the challenges of leading a small school district: She’s not only the superintendent, but also the K-12 principal and virtual school director for this one-school district located “in the middle of a wheat field.”

 

Brad Saron: Ed tech is not about devices, but ‘how you use them’

For Bradford Saron, being a tech-savvy superintendent “has less to do with the devices you have and more to do with how you use them. In my judgment, being able to leverage technology to help people grow and also to convene teams to solve problems are the most important parts of being a tech-savvy superintendent.”

 

William Skilling on moving from professional development to ‘professional learning’

The most important part of effective leadership “is not knowing how do to something, but knowing what to do”—and then turning it over to the people with the right expertise, said William Skilling, superintendent of the Oxford Community Schools in Michigan.

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eSchool Media honors 10 of the nation’s tech-savvy superintendents

Sponsored by GlobalScholar and JDL Horizons, the 12th annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards from eSchool Media recognized 10 senior school district executives from around the nation who demonstrate outstanding leadership and vision in using technology to advance their district’s goals.

The winners were honored at a special awards ceremony Feb. 18. The ceremony—which featured a keynote speech from noted ed-tech consultant Alan November—was held in conjunction with the Century Club 100’s annual meeting during the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education in Houston.

Watch the full awards ceremony here:

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Alan November: What’s your plan for making every home a center of learning?

The 2012 Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards ceremony featured a keynote speech from Alan November, a former classroom teacher and ed-tech pioneer who co-founded the education consulting firm November Learning. November challenged his listeners to make sure they include students’ home environments in their strategic plans.

“What is your plan for making every home a center of learning?” he asked those in attendance. “I’m concerned that we’re spending too much time fixing schools as the dominant focus in helping children succeed.”

South Korea is putting a 1-gigabit internet connection into every home in the country, he said, adding: “That’s more capacity than some states have for all their schools.”

Watch November’s thought-provoking keynote speech here:

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Mark Evans: The ‘three Cs’ that ed tech can help address

For Mark Evans, being a tech-savvy superintendent means “always looking down the road,” with an eye toward how technology can help school districts achieve what he calls the “three Cs”: classroom engagement, cost efficiency, and communication.

Evans, the superintendent of Andover Public Schools in Andover, Kansas, a suburb of Wichita, is a 2012 winner of the Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards from eSchool Media. He recently sat down with eSchool News Editor Dennis Pierce to discuss his district’s ed-tech accomplishments and the keys to its success.

In the interview, Evans discussed how virtualizing its servers has allowed Andover to save at least $750,000 by not having to build a data center to contain them. He also described the growth of the district’s virtual school, which is providing new learning opportunities for more than 300 students—with more students enrolling every year.

Watch what Evans had to say:

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Daniel Frazier: ‘Bold leadership’ is needed for today’s schools

Daniel Frazier, superintendent of Iowa’s Sioux Central Community School District, believes the most important thing school leaders need to do today is “show bold leadership.”

“We’re talking about fundamentally changing the structure of the 21st-century classroom. That’s a scary proposition that is going to alter the perceptions of our public as to what the classroom [environment] should be,” said Frazier, a 2012 winner of the Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards from eSchool Media.

Frazier recently sat down with eSchool News Editor Dennis Pierce to discuss his district’s ed-tech accomplishments and the keys to its success.

In the interview, Frazier discussed how a one-to-one laptop program for students in grades 3-12 is facilitating an inquiry-based approach to learning in his district. He also described how he has been able to get “100-percent commitment” to implementing technology from his district’s staff by sending them out to other schools to see what successful innovations others were doing.

Watch what Frazier had to say:

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Nicholas Gledich on the importance of ‘pausing and planning’

Nicholas Gledich, superintendent of the Colorado Springs School District 11 in Colorado, says one of the things his district has learned is the value of “pausing, planning, and executing” when it comes to ed-tech implementation.

“There’s nothing wrong with pausing. There’s nothing wrong with planning, because you won’t have a good execution if you don’t do that,” said Gledich, a 2012 winner of the Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards from eSchool Media.

Gledich, who came to Colorado Springs after serving as the chief operating officer for Florida’s Orange County Public Schools, recently sat down with eSchool News Editor Dennis Pierce to discuss his district’s ed-tech accomplishments and the keys to its success.

In the interview, Gledich described how Colorado Springs’ wireless initiative “is allowing us to live our vision, which is preparing students for a world yet to be imagined.” He also discussed the importance of having a dashboard, or a “weekly scorecard that tells you how things are going” so you can identify ed-tech problems early on.

Watch what Gledich had to say:

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Michele Hancock: The key to ed-tech success is ‘constantly communicating’

Michele Hancock, superintendent of the Kenosha Unified School District in Wisconsin, attributes much of her district’s ed-tech success to constant communication with stakeholders.

“Even when you’re getting pushback, you have to keep plowing through—and you [do this] by constantly communicating and being consistent with your message,” she said. “If you have a passion for the work that you’re doing, other people will join you. And they will become your leaders beside you, not just your followers.”

Hancock is a 2012 winner of the Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards from eSchool Media. She recently sat down with eSchool News Editor Dennis Pierce to discuss her district’s ed-tech accomplishments and the keys to its success.

In the interview, Hancock said she is constantly using various channels to educate the community about the importance of technology, so they understand that “they way you experienced education was great for you back then, but this is what our children need today and in the future.” She also discussed how getting the district’s leaders on board and helping them understand the importance of technology as a tool for instruction also has been key.

Watch what Hancock had to say:

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Michael Hanson: How he’s taken his district from worst to first in ed tech

When Michael Hanson became superintendent of California’s Fresno Unified School District in 2005, the district was on the verge of a state takeover, and an audit revealed it was the worst in the state in terms of ed-tech use.

Under Hanson’s leadership, Fresno used the results of the audit as a guide for rebuilding its staffing and infrastructure. Using eRate discounts “wisely and systematically,” he said, has allowed the district to deliver a fiber-optic network to its more than 100 buildings.

For guiding a turnaround that has seen Fresno progress from worst in the state to a leader in ed-tech use, Hanson was recognized as a 2012 winner of the Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards from eSchool Media. He recently sat down with eSchool News Editor Dennis Pierce to discuss his district’s experience and the keys to its success.

Being tech-savvy “is now a requirement of the job” for today’s superintendents, Hanson said, adding that the concept has different meanings for different people.

“I would define a tech-savvy superintendent as doing my job,” he said. “I think my staff would define it as me having information before they do. From a student’s perspective, being tech savvy is simply trying to create opportunities for them. For teachers and principals, it’s putting tools in their hands to [help them] do their jobs in an increasingly difficult set of circumstances. From a parent’s perspective, it means getting access to student information more quickly.”

Watch the full interview with Hanson here:

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‘Hunger Games’ becomes part of school curricula

"The Hunger Games"broke the record for a non-sequel last weekend with a $153 million haul at the box office in the U.S. and Canada.

For some school kids around the country, the odds have been in their favor as they’ve scored the ultimate field trip—an outing to “The Hunger Games.” Field trips to see the blockbuster movie have dovetailed with the introduction of the books into school curricula, despite concerns from some parents that the material might not be appropriate for children.

“All of my friends who don’t go to my school are all really jealous,” said 15-year-old David Schwartz. He was among about 500 ninth-grade English students from New Rochelle High School in suburban New York City who were taken to the movie on opening day March 23.

Lexis Eberly was among 120 seventh-graders treated to opening day from Tuslaw Middle School in Massillon, Ohio. Her review: “If I had the chance, I would go see the movie 20 more times!”

For both, the field trip was the result of a blockbuster movie coinciding with their curriculum: They were assigned “The Hunger Games,” the first book in Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy, as summer reading heading into the school year.

In New Rochelle, the book has anchored much of the work in freshman English since the first day of school. Students have written letters from the point of view of main characters and created maps of the arena where kids fight other kids to the death as the bawdy ruling class watches on TV in Collins’ dystopian world.

Some teachers and parents said they hoped the field trips would help their reluctant readers.

Brigid Barry, the English program administrator at Greenwich High School in Connecticut, said about 50 ninth- through 12th-graders from Literacy Workshop, a program at the school, were treated to the movie.

“Sometimes you get a kid in the program who has never read a full book, so to see them excited to read this one, to accomplish that, is really something,” Barry said.

Mered Kopstein, one of the New Rochelle teachers who arranged private screenings at a local theater, said the outing achieved something else at her school, where more than 3,000 students are broken into smaller “learning communities”: It provided a rare chance to bring them together through text they’ve all devoured.

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