Major education organizations get leadership shake-up

"I'm pretty sure I'm not finished," Knezek said when discussing his future in education advocacy.

When things are going well, it might seem like a strange time for a leader to step aside—but according to one of educational technology’s most notable figures, that’s exactly the best time to give others a chance to take the helm.

Recently, two big names in education circles announced they’re stepping down: Donald G. Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and Anne Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

Both Knezek and Bryant will leave their positions in September this year.

“Even before I decided to compete for the CEO position in 2002, I held a strong belief that approximately a decade is the right time period for an individual to lead an organization … as long as things are going well,” said Knezek in an interview with eSchool News. “I’m very proud of what the ISTE family has achieved for learners around the world during my tenure of growth and stewardship, and I will have been in the position a decade this month.”

Don Knezek

During Knezek’s tenure as ISTE’s CEO, he:

  • Completed a merger with the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC), which helped to strengthen both ISTE and this annual conference, says the organization;
  • Established a headquarters office in Washington, D.C., where he became a voice and authority on educational technology issues and positioned ISTE as a policy and advocacy champion for digital-age learning, teaching, and education leadership in the halls of U.S. Congress, the White House, and other parts of government;
  • Increased global collaborations and partnerships. Knezek currently serves on the governing board of the Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE), part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The governing board of IITE consists of only 11 members chosen for their eminence in the field;
  • Refreshed and expanded ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards (NETS)—a framework for global digital-age learning, teaching, and leadership.

“When there is as much talent and leadership capacity as there is in the ed-tech community, it makes no sense for one individual to think about hoarding a leadership position or staying longer than feels right,” explained Knezek. “I sense there are family, friends, and other loved ones that I’ve neglected at times … and I think I’m ready to move into a role with just a bit less intensity. There hasn’t been a lot of time for anything other than ISTE over the last several years.”

Watch: Knezek describes the importance of global advocacy efforts:

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However, Knezek said he’s making sure to use the terms “stepping down” or “stepping aside” because he believes he will continue to “advocate for—and facilitate—high-quality, digital-age education for every young learner.”

“There are a ton of variables that will determine how that engagement might look moving forward, but I’m pretty sure I’m not finished,” he said of his ed-tech advocacy efforts.

Knezek also described how much he enjoyed working with ISTE.

“I have enjoyed almost universal trust, appreciation, and support in the work I’ve been privileged to do to date from ISTE members, staff, collaborators, and supporters, as well as from the broader education community,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate always to work where I’ve had passion and with people I respect and enjoy. I can’t think of a better time for me to step aside and support new leadership for ISTE as we innovate and grow for even greater efficacy worldwide.”

“Don’s extraordinary vision and leadership helped establish ISTE as the premier educational technology organization, and his efforts have positively impacted student and teacher throughout the world,” said ISTE President Holly Jobe. “The board appreciates his tireless effort and commitment to realizing ISTE’s mission.”

As for Anne Bryant, who had no comment for eSchool News, she began her work as executive director for NSBA in 1996 and has been “instrumental in focusing the organization’s governance, research, and training on increasing achievement for all students and advocating on behalf of school boards in the Congress, federal courts, in federal agencies, and in the public media,” said the organization.

Anne Bryant

During Bryant’s tenure, she:

  • Launched the Center for Public Education—a national resource for credible and practical information on public education research, data, and analysis;
  • Established the Key Work of School Boards—a framework to focus and guide school boards in their work;
  • Expanded NSBA’s federal and legal advocacy on Capitol Hill, in courts, and in federal agencies.

In a statement, Bryant noted: “I am so proud of the work NSBA has done with a superb team of staff and school board leaders to advance public education and improve student achievement. I have gotten to know so many school board members from across the country, whose stories of dedication and leadership have touched my life and promoted NSBA’s mission of advocating for equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership.”

Watch: Bryant discusses the powerful role of school boards in this special message from the stage at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in NYC at the conclusion of Education Nation

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“[Anne’s] vision and energetic leadership have nurtured exemplary school board governance focused on student achievement,” said NSBA President Mary Broderick. “Beyond school boards, Anne’s collaborative spirit with other education organizations has improved knowledge, understanding, and leadership. We have all benefited immeasurably from Anne’s wisdom, commitment, and grace.”

Search committees are being formed to find replacements for both Knezek and Bryant, the two organizations said.

Meris Stansbury

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