Category: Recommendations


A Powerful Personal Moment

As I tried to leave work, one thing after another kept coming up that, moment by moment, began putting me behind schedule. I was heading to an ACSA Personnel Academy in the same town that my son attends college. My hope was to grab a quick Starbucks Frappuccino for some caffeine to help me get through what would end up being a 14 hour work day and to be able to stop by to get a quick hug from my son, while also getting to the Academy on time.

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I finally got on the road. One slow vehicle after another kept getting in front of me. Driving along the 101 in California, there were several construction sites and thus rightfully slower zones. These had been planned for in the original departure time goal.

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.37.58 AMI pulled into the Starbucks drive-thru to discover the line was longer than expected. Orders were being filled slowly. Another car had pulled in behind me and I couldn’t back up and skip the stop. I started taking deep breaths and texted my son, “I’m running behind schedule. Not sure if I’ll be able to stop by.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.09.23 AMBack on the 101, the two cars ahead of me drove side by side at 55 mph in a 70 mph hour zone. I couldn’t pass either one of them and could feel myself getting frustrated. Yet, all of a sudden a very calm feeling came over me. The words, “I’m protecting you,” came into my mind. The calmness was so sudden and out of the blue. It really caught my attention. I took a deep breath and said a prayer, “God, thank you for slowing me down and protecting me from whatever it is that I may never know. I trust that You are taking care of me.”

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Ten minutes later, I drove past a six-vehicle accident. Several volunteers had already pulled over to assist, but emergency personnel had not yet arrived.Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.02.23 AM


Not only did I stop to get and give that hug to my son, but I took some extra time to buy him dinner and tell him the story. I ended up getting 5 incredible hugs during those twenty minutes, was able to hear some wonderful stories from him, and am now looking forward to a bonus Monday night dinner date with him.

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Yes, I arrived late to the Academy. When I got there though, I found the session was just getting started.

I thank God for the gift of faith He has given me, for protecting me, and for helping me keep what is really important in perspective.

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Shifting the 21st Century Conversation

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 3.47.48 PMIt’s 2018 and we’re still having conversations about what it means to be a 21st Century Leader and Learner in education. We are still having conversations about what a 21st Century education should like. Nearly one-fifth of the way into the 21st Century, it’s time to shift these conversations and focus on the actions needed to ensure that we are providing a relevant education to today’s student that will prepare them for their tomorrow.

What exactly does this look like:

  1. Design learning experiences and spaces that will allow students to develop the skills they will need to be successful in careers that will take them into the 22nd Century: Adaptability, Communication, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Relationship Building.

     2. Understand that National, Global, and Digital Citizenship can all be rolled into one.             Citizenship. Being a person of good character stands the test of time.

     3. Engage each generation’s student in learning with the tools that are being used by             their generation.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 3.50.49 PMMaking the commitment to being an educator is making a commitment to the future. It is making a commitment to empowering each generation with knowledge and skills.  The responsibility for educating children and students of all ages has always been an important one. Yet, our generation has been given the gift of living in a time marked by rapid shifts technological growth and in how the world does business.

The education system is still in its infancy in responding to the needs of the globally connected, digitally literate student. Courage is needed by educators, parents, community members, legislators, and students to move from accepting the transferring of past practice to digital formats towards practices that enhance and accelerate learning that is engaging and relevant.

We must bring an open mindset to our roles. We must embrace innovation and lead by investing in people. Teacher leaders invest in your administrators. Site and district office leaders invest in your support staff, classified staff, and classroom teachers. Educate parents, community members, school boards and legislators to bring an understanding of what it looks like to prepare students for their tomorrow. Share resources and professional learning that support the growth and adaptability of the education profession and the system that supports it.

Preparing students for their future is a call to action. Whether in a small school district or a large one, whether in a small school or a large school, whether in a small community or a large community, invest in, learn with, and educate. Shift the conversation. Embrace what is possible and make it happen.


Cybersecurity Awareness – A Future Ready Imperative

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-9-40-22-amAlmost every adult has had an experience with some form of a cybersecurity breach – spam email, malware, viruses, identity theft. Yet, this is an area of professional development and student education that has not yet found its way into the mainstream of instruction. We are more aware of the stories of such breaches than we are about how to proactively avoid them. We know that we have the potential to be targets of phishing and other cybersecurity scams. We have become aware of the high need to protect student data. Yet, it is not uncommon for us as educators to continue to rely on others, or most specifically an IT department, to address these concerns on our behalf.


Image credit – TAPD Cybersecurity Course, Emil Ahangarzadeh

There are however basic cybersecurity habits that we can all practice such as having strong passwords, using secondary authentications for log-ins, making sure there is a lock screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-8-57-33-amin the address bar whenever submitting secure information, hovering over unknown links to see where an address might really be taking us and not responding to emails from unknown senders with news that is just too good to be true.

It is not uncommon to see the strength of cybersecurity awareness and knowledge of safe practices fall along generational lines. Newer teachers are coming out of their college and teacher prep programs with some knowledge of these concepts. They are comfortable navigating the web and doing their due diligence to implement safe cyber practices and research web based educational resources. They are part of a generation growing up with the first vestiges of digital citizenship knowledge.


Yet, many of today’s educators did not grow up with an emphasis on digital citizenship as a part of their formative education. The concepts are new, the speed of change and adjustments to be made in the digital world are perceived as scary or overwhelming and “just one more thing” to keep up with. Concerns around cybersecurity and fake news are used to justify avoiding  the incorporation of current technology to enhance their instructional programs or engaging with social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Voxer to connect with other educators and educational resources. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the sincerity of reasons given to avoid engaging the abundance of resources available to today’s educator on the internet. Is it complacency? Fear of the new? Being overwhelmed by the abundance? Concerns about cybersecurity?

It is important that these concerns are heard and that educational institutions respond by providing training that empowers staff with the knowledge to safely and confidently engage with digital resources. Providing a comprehensive education program will assist in steering the cybersecurity conversation in a direction that supports providing today’s student and today’s educator with access to today’s technology. Cybersecurity education programs allow staff to move forward with more confidence while also keeping them and our students safe in addition to enhancing digital citizenship skills.

Educators and their organizations can connect with user friendly and robust courses through groups such as the the K12 Super Highway Network (K12SHN) and the Technical Assistance and Professional Development (TAPD) program. The coursework  on cybersecurity benefits both educational institutions and the personal lives of educators. The K12SHN and TAPD are offering  this course to districts in California free of charge. There is an initial commitment to have two staff members preview the course and lay the foundation to support a successful rollout of the program. This is definitely part of the brilliance in the design of this course. 


Designing With Not For

use-of-space-and-time-gearFive years ago this week, I posted the TedTalk, Teaching Design for Change by Emily Pilloton, on my Facebook page with the comment that the content of the talk was great advice for rural school districts. At the time of the posting, I was a principal with a great team overseeing the special education programs for a county office of education. Little did I know that five years later, I would be the superintendent of a rural school district that would pass its first bond measure, Creating Class A Schools, under my tenure and that I would be working with another great team of educators as well as a school board that exemplifies what it means to put students first. In addition to this, I would also be knee deep in becoming increasingly versed in what it means to design a Future Ready instructional program.

As our team dives into the design work of redefining learning spaces so that they allow for flexibility and the incorporation of today’s learning tools, combining the advice of Emily Pilloton with the Future Ready gears of Collaborative Leadership, Community Partnerships, Budget and Resources, Curriculum Instruction and Assessment with the Use of Space and Time couldn’t be more opportune. As we dive deeper and deeper into the process of working with the architect and his team, it is clear that the concept of “designing with not for” is more intuitive to some than others.


It is easy to take a look at designs for layout, furniture and infrastructure that have been implemented at other schools. It can even be tempting for professionals to suggest that a school or district use the work that was done elsewhere as their model. Yes, it’s easy, convenient and might even feel like it saves time. However, the perception of time saving and efficiency only applies to the front end. It creates far more work on the back if staff voie, student and community voice aren’t specifically and intentionally incorporated into the process. While schools have many similar characteristics and needs, each school design and culture has its own nuances. The location of a particular room or door can dramatically impact the flow and use of space. Classroom design and furniture layout may  impact student learning differently from year to year based on the characteristics of the students in each and the strengths of the teacher.

Bob Dillon, author of Redesigning Learning Spaces, gave some simple sage advice at CUE’s BOLD Classrooms event in Northern California to help prioritize instructional space design projects that can be applied to undertakings of all sizes. As schools dive into modernizing learning spaces, let us ask “What is neat to have and what is need to have?” as we move forward with construction and design projects. This concept applies both to things that we purchase such as furniture, lighting, flooring, whiteboards, screen technology as well as to how traffic flow and visibility will impact the use of spaces.

The California voter, this past June and November, has been generous to schools in passing both local bonds and a state school facilities bond. This allows for a great opportunity for schools to take a look at how facilities, infrastructure and learning tools engage today’s learners, prepare them for tomorrow’s careers and stay flexible to adapt to the needs of the next generation of student. This is a great opportunity to show leadership in bringing teacher, student and community voice to the table. This is a great opportunity for collaborative partnerships to leverage social media and professional learning networks to share their work to engage in local, statewide and national thought partner conversations to support wise decision making in design, use of time and space as well as budget and resources to influence curriculum and instruction. This is a great opportunity to invest in the future.







Future Ready’s Impact on Digital and Personalized Learning

As part of the Superintendent’s Future Ready Briefing with U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, we have been asked a series of questions. The first question, “How has or how do you foresee Future Ready supporting your district’s transformation to digital and personalized learning?” is one that establishes the visionary foundation.


I believe that it is through the focus of the seven gears that districts will be able to embrace just how truly intertwined and essential each component is to developing a comprehensive personalized learning program. Each of these gears has historically and frequently  been addressed in isolation rather than a part of a whole. It is through defining and redefining our learning vision, as we grow in our knowledge base, that we consider each gear and plan for it while curriculum and work product become increasingly digitized and personalized.

Take a look at the seven gears. What do you think Future Ready’s Impact on Digital and Personalized will be?


Future Ready and the Small School District

It is inspiring to connect with the work being done to move the Office of Educational Technology’s Future Ready Initiative forward. It is energizing to be able to support a vision that has such a clear and profound impact of setting up our next generation of citizens for success.


School districts making the investment of time and resources in becoming familiar with the Future Ready Initiative  have embraced this bold movement that is providing educational institutions across the country a robust network of resources to embrace and leverage digital learning. The seven gears embedded in the Future Ready vision are well thought out and a district’s use of the Interactive Planning Dashboard yields meaningful insights into the structures of its organization that supports learning and encourages developing a mindset of preparing today’s student for a future with tools that we can only imagine, but that will exist in workforce that students sitting in today’s classrooms will be a part of.

Going through the dashboard, its resources and implementing an action plan founded in the research based practices that are provided at the culmination of this process is a comprehensive effort. The tools and the information provided through the Future Ready process are robust. They support strong, action based initiatives to provide an educational vision focused on more personalized learning through a systematic approach that includes the smooth integration of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Use of Space and Time, a Robust Infrastructure, a focus on Data and Privacy, Community Partnerships, Personalized Learning, and Budget and Resources. Follow through on this effort takes a significant amount of organizational capacity and strong leadership. It is also an effort that today’s forward thinking schools are ready to embrace. 

Allocating the organizational resources to fully leverage the resources made available through the Future Ready Initiative are not readily available in all school districts across the country. According to Using Data to Improve Student Learning In School Districts, written by Victoria Bernhardt, about 60% of this country’s school districts have fewer than 1500 students. This puts a clear limit on a district’s available resources  to allocate the personnel needed to fully leverage the robust suite of resources available. In addition, this constraint of resources puts a strain on the smaller school district’s ability  to implement the complement of structures recommended in a systematic manner.

Yet, innovative leaders of small school districts  across the country are jumping in feet first to embrace the Future Ready mindset. Leadership teams are making adaptations to the process of the Future Ready Leadership Self Assessment and the resulting self assessment reports to create modified Future Ready Action Plans. Small school district teams are creating action plans that embrace the personnel, budget and infrastructure resources that are available to them. Non-traditional leadership teams are being created that allow for the amplification of the teacher voice as well as that of the classified employee in planning and preparing schools to deliver a robust 21st century education to students. Educators from smaller organizations strive to create the opportunities for students in small districts that will make them equally competitive with the students of the 6% of the nation’s school districts that educate more than half the students in our country. These efforts seek to equalize the playing field with students who are able to benefit from districts with greater organizational capacity, more robust infrastructures, access to more community partners and internal professional expertise, in addition to access to greater financial resources to support the implementation of Future Ready organizational structures.

Today’s successful educational leader must embrace the philosophy of and understand the power of the collaborative relationship. For today’s educator and Future Ready Superintendent this takes the form of a robust professional learning  network. This network includes and values personal face to face relationships while also relying heavily on social media. Superintendents and leadership teams should bring energy, innovation and an open mindset to the their positions. Leaders should be able to support action that moves the vision of preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s careers forward. They should be connected on social media and should be able to adeptly move the Future Ready conversation forward by connecting with other administrators from across the country. Professional connections and partnerships can be created quickly via Twitter, LinkedIn, Voxer and Facebook as well as through membership in professional organizations. 
The California School Board Association defines small school districts as those that serve 2500 students or less. These districts make up 55% of the districts in the State of California. One of those districts is mine, the San Antonio Union Elementary School District in Lockwood, CA. We are a Future Ready school district and I, as the the superintendent with a passion for education and a passion for supporting small schools encourage my colleagues of districts both large and small to take the Future Ready Pledge and dive into its supporting resources.


Change is an Opportunity to do Something amazing!

Change is an opportunity to do something amazing!                                                                                            –George Couros



Change is an opportunity to do something amazing – a simple statement with great insight. Social media has created a platform that has allowed educators to connect in such a way that our profession now has legitimate Edu Rockstars who are currently practicing while also being recognized for their craft. These Edu Rockstars are also influencing innovation in districts, schools and classrooms across the United States as well as outside the borders of our nation. Add to this the incredible influence the Edu Rockstars of other countries are having on educational practice in the United States and it is no wonder that teachers, administrators and classified staff are becoming more and more comfortable pushing at perceived boundaries to create more innovative educational environments that are relevant, engaging and seek not just to educate, but to inspire a love and a passion for learning.

It was perhaps inevitable that the creation of the internet would eventually lead to social media platforms as it builds on a basic human need for social interaction. Yet, it was not inevitable that educators such as Jon Corippo, Director of Academic Innovation for CUE, Adam Welcome, Director of Innovation and Technology for the LaFayette School District and Tom Murray, Director of Innovation for the Alliance of Excellent Education would all cross paths and be recognized amongst other outstanding leaders as 20 to Watch Education Technology Leaders by the National School Board Association. Their collective influence over the past couple of years has created a dynamic shift in the conversations and the actions educators are taking to redefine how instruction is delivered and how school culture is developed.

District leaders such as Michael McCormick, Joe Sanfelippo, and Candace Singh, are setting powerful examples of what it looks like to embrace innovation and risk taking from a systems approach. They are leading by modeling and telling the stories of their districts, modeling how to use the budgeting process to revolutionize the way work is being done and the use of Open Educational Resources (OERs) to support an educational model that embraces today’s tools and resources as part of the educational process.


Site leaders such as Jennifer Klozco, Catinas Haugen, Amy Fadeji, Brad Gustafson and Ken Durham have created cultures that serve as models for embracing teacher voice, academic risk taking , innovation and joy. Whether dancing to the music with Mrs. Klozco and her disco ball, embracing the power of glitter with Mrs. Fadeji, being empowered by Mrs. Haugen, going on a PokemonGo style tour of the school with Mr. Gustafson as a new student or being given an influential voice by Mr. Durham, these Edu Rockstars are changing the landscape of how business is being done in schools today.

Classroom instruction is being redefined by innovative teachers such John Miller, Ed Campos, Marianne Emery who are embracing game based learning, active instruction and redefined learning spaces to increase student achievement. John Miller’s book, coauthored with Chris Scott, Unofficial Minecraft Lab for Kids, is a great example of the influence he is having beyond the four walls of his classroom. Ed Campos has created enthusiasm for 360 Math, active and engaged learning through his day to day work and CUE RockStar presentations. Marianne Emery’s work in her own classroom design is being passed on to other educators through her Twitter account and events such as BOLD.

Former teachers and current educators such as Sam Patue, Brian Briggs, David Culberhouse, and Ben Cogswell continue to light up the landscape of innovation as well. It is impossible to list all the great educators taking advantage of the change social media has brought to the landscape of education. The one thing they do have in common though is that they have embraced change as an opportunity to do something amazing!



Innovation – Threat to Society or Foundation of Future Generations?

images“I’m not sure he’s wrong about automobiles,” he said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization —  Booth Tarkington, 1918

This Tarkington quote could serve as a sentence starter for so many of the innovations we see in education today. Let’s play with this for a moment…



“I’m not sure he’s wrong about ‘internet’ he said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization…


imgres“I’m not sure he’s wrong about ‘smart phones’,” he said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization…



“I’m not sure he’s wrong about ‘social media’,” he said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization…



“I’m not sure he’s wrong about ‘cloud storage’,” he said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization…



“I’m not sure he’s wrong about ‘e-readers’,” he said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization…



“I’m not sure he’s wrong about ‘virtual collaboration’,” he said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization…



“I’m not sure he’s wrong about ‘augmented reality’,” he said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization…



“I’m not sure he’s wrong about ‘digital textbooks’,” he said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization…



“I’m not sure he’s wrong about ‘game based learning’,” he said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization…


“I’m not sure he’s wrong about ‘online learning’,” he said. “With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization…

Ask the average person today to imagine the impact not owning an automobile would have on their daily life, their ability to earn a living, ability to get groceries, to socialize, to seek entertainment and so forth. How will the innovations of today, that some are hesitant to embrace or see as a threat to civilization, become foundations of everyday life for future generations?


Societal Barriers to Equity in Education – A Google Search


ToddlerTechPic.pngThis little guy doesn’t talk yet, doesn’t walk yet, but he and his friends will be in our classrooms in the next few years. They will be coming to us familiar with how to use a smartphone, a tablet and a computer. Are we prepared to engage him and his classmates with an education that uses the tools and technology that he is growing up with and are fully integrated into his personal life?

Thus begins a typical attention getting opener I frequently use in presentations. Despite the fact, that the smartphone and similar technology are as commonplace, if not more so, than the ink pen and the pencil, there continues to be significant debate about the integration of modern technology in the educational process. Nevertheless, the technological shift is in place. The full implementation of screen and cloud based technology along with a shift in pedagogy, as well as an understanding of the skills today’s student needs to be successful for a career that will take them through 2075 before they retire, are being solidified.

It is with this in mind that I appreciate opportunities to lead and participate in discussions about the current revolution in education. I enjoy bringing presentations to other educators that support this shift. The process of preparing and researching the nuances to fit each education community I get to work with makes me a better educator. Over the past couple of days, I’ve been preparing to guide a predominately hispanic district in California through some discussions about their use of and vision for modern tools in education. As I prepared, I searched for images of a “Mexican toddler using technology.” Here’s an example of what popped:

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As both an educator and the parent of a mixed race, hispanic son, I was shocked!

I decided to search for “white toddler using technology.” Notice the distinct difference in images:

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The educator in me is stunned, the parent in me can hardly breathe.

“Okay,” I think to myself, “be a little more politically correct with your search term and see what happens with ‘hispanic toddler using technology’.”

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I’m thinking, “Better, but do my eyes deceive me or are most of these images still of white children?”

Well, as long as I’ve started down this path…”black toddler using technology.”

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“Asian toddler using technology”
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What was intended to be a quick Google search turned out to have a far more profound effect on my already strong belief around the importance of the work we do in regard to equity in education. The images speak loudly. Our societal perceptions and expectations are clearly captured. What started as “a quick Google search” has become a personal call to action.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.24.08 AMI read the book Dot by Randi Zuckerberg and Joe Berger to our kindergarten students this past year. It is a wonderful book that uses multiple meaning words such as “surfing, tweeting, swiping, tagging” to highlight a balance of spending time with technology and playing outdoors. Yes, the main character is white and no, I haven’t been able to find an equivalent book using characters of other races. Nevertheless, the story and the message are enjoyable and on point in emphasizing the importance of balancing screen time with outdoor play and discovery.

My school district enjoys being a distinctly multi-racial community and our kindergarten class shows this diversity with it’s mix of black, hispanic and white students. Despite, what the Google image search showed for technology use by toddlers from a variety of races, when our kindergarten students were asked who used a smartphone or a tablet at home, 100% of the class raised their hand. When asked what the difference is between “tagging” on a device and on the playground, two of of our hispanic students provided very clear examples of the difference of their parents tagging friends on Facebook and playing a game of tag on the grass.

Knowing that our district, our community and our parents are clearly providing more equal access than what the Google image search would indicate society perceives, alleviates some of the emotional fire I felt during this search. Reflecting on the environments and communities that most of my colleagues work in took a little more sting out of the feeling. Yet, it does not alleviate the concern around the reality we know to still exist in regard to equal access, parental use of devices to support educational applications vs. video gaming and entertainment watching. The concern about the power images hold to set expectations and influence societal realities exists very strongly.

Let us all be a part of a call to action in the shift of equity in education as we navigate the impact of the technological revolution. Let us each use this opportunity to provide equal access to modern tools to support the educational process, to provide equal access to and understanding of how to use these tools. Let us all take part in shaping our culture, its perceptions and its expectations so that an image search shows equity in the opportunities and access provided for children. As we prepare the next generation of citizens, let our students, who will be retiring in 2075, experience life in a society that provides equal access and equal opportunity regardless of race.