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Administrator Profile

Since 1999, Scott County Schools in Kentucky has been a leader in digital storytelling thanks to its director of technology, Jeanne Biddle, who with the district's previous tech coordinator, Leslie Flanders, launched a tool to help teachers improve the writing skills of their students in preparation for state assessments.

San Antonio's (Texas) North East Independent School District (NEISD) grows by about 2,000 students per year, says Superintendent Richard A. Middleton, because when new families move to town, many prefer his district out of the 19 others in the city.

Walt Rulffes had an unlikely ascent in Nevada’s Clark County School District (CCSD). Having served neither as teacher nor principal before his hiring as deputy superintendent of finance and business, his seven years of dogged lobbying for dollars from the legislature nevertheless paid off when he was hired as superintendent of the fifth-largest school system in the country.

By the time James G. Merrill became superintendent of Virginia Beach (Va.) City Public Schools (VBCPS) in 2006, there wasn't much to improve statistically. The district ranked first in reading proficiency among the neighboring seven cities and first on the combined SAT; all schools had earned full Standards of Learning (SOL) accreditation from the Virginia Department of Education; and even the relationship between its elected school board, the community and administrators was harmonious.

Call it a case of "vertigo." Middle school media specialist Grace Poli was determined to find a way to use technology to help her ELL and special-needs students learn English more quickly. As she watched the Apple ad featuring the U2 song "Vertigo," something clicked.

"I thought, 'This will motivate kids,'" says Poli. After looking into the benefits of music and how audiobooks can help struggling readers, Poli approached her superintendent with a proposal for an after-school iPod program.

In 2000, the Milwaukee (Wis.) Public Schools (MPS) requested proposals for pilot programs for a high school to replace its failing North Division High School. At the time, Kathelyne Dye-Gallagher was a business teacher at Washington High School in Milwaukee. The district’s request ignited her desire to create a stronger system that would guide Milwaukee’s low-income students. In 2003, three smaller schools replaced North Division. Genesis High School of Business, Trade, Technology, Health and Human Services was among them, with Dye-Gallagher as principal.

“Technology really wasn’t something ‘normal’ back when I was in school,” says Kari Rhame Murphy. But today, the same young girl raised in the 1950s Louisiana home of two teacher parents is the chief technology officer of a district that is one of the most highly funded in Texas, thanks to its nearness to the Houston Ship Channel. A former middle school math and computer technology teacher—the latter, at a time when teaching computers was virgin territory—Murphy now instructs the teachers and administrators of Deer Park ISD.

Michael Smith admits he doesn’t talk much about his Web site or weekly blog with the staff, school board or community in his rural Oakland, Ill., district, because most folks probably don’t know what a blog is. That’s not a disrespectful dig, but reality: In his agricultural district 200 miles south of Chicago’s bustle—comprising only 300 students, 50 staff, two schools, and one principal—tending a Web site isn’t as high on anyone’s task list as teaching, farming the corn and soybean crops for which the region is known, or football.

Picture A behemoth machine in a 6-by-6-foot room at Inver Grove Heights Junior High School in Minnesota with cables on all sides and a paper roll printing data that was input by ninth-graders hopeful that their numbers from a recent experiment would be analyzed better than they’d been able to do so far.

They had no idea that as they watched they were experiencing for the first time what we today take for granted: an early-model computer doing its job.

The 100-square-mile rural and suburban DeForest Area School District, located minutes from Madison, Wis., has an unlikely contributor to its work: the DeForest community at large, which through a series of well-planned conventions has been as active as any board member could be in shaping the district’s future goals.