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DA At Large: New year and new directions

Meet DA’s K12 columnist and editor at large

After serving as editor-in-chief and then executive editor of District Administration, and writing and editing for our sister education publication University Business more than a decade ago, it is an enormous privilege to step into a new role as columnist for both magazines and editor at large (my wife says it is more accurate to say editor at “extra-large”).

While I wrote the editor’s letter in every issue of DA to introduce articles in the magazine, the new “DA At Large” column—easily found on the last page—gives me freedom to address breaking topics in K12 education that catch my interest, and share insights from my long and varied career. My goal in every column is to present usable information for district leaders, but the first order of business is an introduction—or reintroduction—as the case may be.

In addition to K12 teaching and curriculum experience in several states, and finishing a doctorate in science education at Indiana University, I completed a full career as a professor of education at the University of Connecticut. While there, I taught and supervised pre-service and in-service teachers numbered in the thousands, and helped redesign the entire school of education teacher-education program. I also completed a science leadership program at Columbia University, funded by the National Science Foundation, and was selected for related programs at colleges across the United States, including the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California at Berkeley.

Professional Development

I also co-authored three teacher-education texts for Prentice-Hall, wrote several technology courses distributed internationally, and presented K12 staff-development programs throughout the U.S., Canada, and abroad in almost every instructional model anyone can suggest. These include information tours for school executives in major cities, sponsored by companies such as Microsoft and the former Compaq (now merged with Hewlett-Packard); week-long and weekend programs at colleges and universities; summer programs for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe; workshops at professional conferences; and day-long presentations in hotels across the country.

I also directed a curriculum implementation project with 19 school districts, served on proposal review panels at state and federal levels, and was science/technology facilitator for a four-town consortium of school systems. I have also been active in professional associations throughout my career, serving on the board of directors for one organization, and as national membership director for another. Presently I am serving a third four-year term as a trustee of Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., where I chair the education group.

The Schoolhouse Rock Connection

Some readers also know that I collaborated on the Emmy-award-winning Schoolhouse Rock series on ABC-TV in the 70s, and still do conference keynotes with the executive producer George Newall, who wrote “Unpack Your Adjectives,” and music director Bob Dorough, who wrote the famous “Conjunction Junction.” In those sessions, we share the steps we followed to produce network television programs from initial concept to final film, and the educational lessons we learned that are appropriate for today’s web generation.

In fact, SHR is a great example of adapting instructional materials for new technologies, and people are surprised to hear that the programs were proposed originally for phonograph records. In turn, SHR was adapted for each new electronic medium, including audiotapes, filmstrips, videocassettes, CDs, DVDs, and the internet, and will be adapted again for whatever new technologies come our way. This year marks the 40th anniversary of that cultural phenomenon. Happy birthday to us!

Moving Forward

I have faced and continue to face many of the same challenges, pressures, and frustrations in K12 education as you, especially in this “new normal” era of constricted budgets, changing demographics, conflicting standards, declining test scores, and exploding technology. I plan to cover these topics and look forward to meeting you here each month. Please call me “Gil,” and always feel free to send me your thoughts and suggestions.