Photo: Lisa Greseth works with the third-grade teaching team at King Elementary.  The team is in  its second year of a pilot using iPods in the classroom.  Left to right: Betty Thomas, The employees of Vancouver Public Schools constantly amaze me with their strong commitment to our mission and vision for students, staff, families, and community. I feel blessed to work with the greatest group of talented professionals I’ve experienced in my career. VPS is a special place. In fact, those of you who have worked in other districts and organizations might agree that VPS is extraordinary.

At the same time, we acknowledge that all of us, and the school system we serve, have room for growth. Our individual and collective dedication to continuous quality improvement—a deeply held value in VPS—is another tremendous asset. In part, that’s why we have invested strategically in the design, development, and deployment of performance management tools, enabling users to make informed decisions that shape future outcomes. These solutions include the Learner Profile, Data Dashboard, and Early Warning Systems. Scorecards report progress related to a set of specific Key Performance Indicators or measures of student, staff, school, and district success. Most importantly, these measures tell a more complete and balanced story of growth within the system.

This month, I’m pleased to highlight the recent national recognition of a remarkable educator whose humble leadership is delivering transformative results. The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Technology Leadership Network (TLN) recently named Lisa Greseth, Vancouver Public Schools’ manager of information and instructional technology, to its “20 to Watch” honor roll for 2011-2012. How prestigious is this recognition? Only 20 educators were selected for promoting the incorporation of innovative technology into high-quality classroom learning and school district operations. That’s out of 15,000 school districts in the country. And, Lisa was the only educator chosen from the Pacific Northwest.

Those of us who have worked with Lisa know her talents firsthand. She has an exceptional ability to bridge the educational and technical worlds. She makes complex ideas and jargon understandable to the layperson, and she does it with humor and grace. This is a gift. Lisa is instrumental in helping our district develop the capacity to use technology for teaching, learning, communication, collaboration, and productivity. She also leads a creative team of “architects” in developing the district’s performance management tools. Above all, Lisa is customer focused!

Based on the vision of our Design II Strategic Plan, and with Lisa’s leadership, we are creating flexible learning environments. We are using technology to transform learning in highly engaging and personalized ways. And, we are designing unique solutions based on the needs of students and staff.

Over the past several years, Lisa and our instructional technology facilitators have been supporting several 21st century technology pilots, including these:

  • Amplification systems in grades K-2 district-wide, focusing on phonemic awareness and student engagement;
  • Mobi Tablets in at least one classroom at each elementary school, focusing on student engagement and collaboration;
  • iPods in 3rd and 4th grades at King and Hough, focusing on student engagement and literacy;
  • iPads in selected classrooms at Jason Lee, Discovery, Gaiser, and McLoughlin, focusing on math and literacy skills;
  • Interactive white boards, responders, projectors, and document cameras at Fruit Valley school-wide, focusing on student engagement;
  • A 1:1 computer-to-student model in selected 6th grade classrooms at Jason Lee, focusing on student engagement, information literacy and extended learning; and
  • “Bring Your Own Devices” at Alki, Skyview and Columbia River, focusing on student engagement, extended learning and collaboration.

The technology pilots are helping to inform subsequent investments. This year, for example, the district made an investment to ensure that each classroom is equipped with a projector (many of which have interactive whiteboard capabilities) and a document camera. Work is underway to bring wireless environments to our secondary schools and then to our elementary schools. Our instructional technology facilitators group is finalizing a proposal to pilot a learning management system when Vancouver iTech Preparatory opens in the fall.

It’s exciting stuff, and frankly, it’s what our stakeholders expect. Our staff members, parents, and patrons don’t just want the tools, the boxes, and the broadband highway. They need us to deliver a learning environment that prepares our graduates for their future, not our past. With the possibility of a technology levy ballot measure in 2013, we’re one step closer to making that vision a reality.

Upon learning of her selection for “20 to Watch,” Lisa said, “I certainly appreciate the recognition from NSBA, but more importantly, I believe it affirms that Vancouver Public Schools has the right vision for transforming education in powerful ways so that all students are prepared for college, careers and life.”

Lisa gets it. With her leadership, and the ability to build capacity in others, our kids will get it too—personalized and engaged learning environments that prepare them for post-secondary success.

Thanks again for all that you do.

Image: Steve's signature