Strong leadership to guide policy, and a voice to speak for education stakeholders nationwide, are essential to discussions about school reform, according to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)—and this fall, ISTE will turn to a new leader for these in Brian Lewis.
Lewis, who will take over as CEO of the ed-tech advocacy group for long-time CEO Don Knezek in September, has a 25-year career in both the public and private sectors as an association leader for a number of nonprofit organizations, an education advocate and reformer, and an elected school board member.
“[ISTE’s] unique work spans the entire education landscape, touching everyone who cares about, works in, or volunteers in education,” said Lewis in an interview with eSchool News. “Most importantly, ISTE is focused on the right thing: serving students. Because of all this, ISTE is well poised for its next chapter. That’s very attractive to a lifelong education advocate like me.”
ISTE board president Holly Jobe told eSchool News that the organization wanted a CEO with association experience, who knew education, and who was an “entrepreneurial visionary and strategic leader.”
Because ISTE is currently transitioning to a new strategic plan that will drive the organization’s work, the board also wanted a leader who had business acumen, who was collaborative, and who could lead the organization “to the next level,” she said.
Lewis said that as the organization transitions to the future, its board of directors has set a number of goals, including an introspective look at governance, how it advocates, how it listens to and communicates with members and stakeholders, and how it partners with other organizations.
“I’ll be working to position the organization for the future it sees for itself,” said Lewis.
Part of that future, he said, involves finding other organizations with similar mission objectives, while keeping the focus (resources, volunteerism, staff, and money) on students.
“The need to … work collaboratively to achieve common goals couldn’t be more pronounced,” said Lewis. “We’re living in a new world where education nonprofits know they can’t do it alone. So we have to ask our fellow organizations and ourselves how we can collectively be wiser, thriftier, and more strategic in how we fulfill our unique, but aligned, commitments to students.”
ISTE’s board is currently focused on best practices in nonprofit governance, and Lewis says this is noteworthy because pursuing these changes in nonprofits is difficult, often controversial work.
“It says that how they do their work is as important as the work itself. It undergirds the ability of the board, staff, and volunteers to serve our members and mission. The benefit to the membership is a transparent, mission-focused organization that spends its resources on organizational priorities,” he said.
Jobe said that Lewis was a good choice to lead ISTE going forward, because his understanding of the education community and “its structures, issues, operations, and challenges” will allow ISTE to work with colleagues on mutual issues and “bolster our strength in influencing state and federal policy.”
“His extensive relationships in Washington, D.C., will help position the organization and our membership to have a strong voice in education policy discussions and decisions,” she said.
Lewis previously was chief strategy officer and interim CEO for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and also has served as executive director of the California Association of School Business Officials and director of governmental relations for the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association.
Besides ed-tech leadership and advocacy issues, Lewis says much of ISTE’s focus will be on shaping the debate about school reform, including the role of the Common Core State Standards in the U.S. and mobile technology and its influence in developing countries.
“I’m a student-focused education advocate,” said Lewis. “I believe we can’t lose sight of our responsibilities to help students reach their potential.”
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