Photo: Students working on iPadsPublic education is under attack,” warned my friend Mark Edwards in his presentation to the 100+ attendees of our recent National School Boards Association (NSBA) technology site visit. Unfortunately, his comment was spot on. America’s schools, teachers, principals, staff and students have been subjected to a growing amount of unfair criticism from the media, business leaders, legislators, members of Congress and others who seem bent on tearing down the system instead of supporting it. We’re doing our part to separate fact from fiction by sharing our success with our elected leaders in Olympia.

Dr. Edwards is superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina. Recently named the 2013 National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators, he is leading Mooresville in a conversion to 21st century digital technology that began about five years ago. Mooresville now hosts hundreds of visitors every year because Dr. Edwards and his board of directors know it’s important for public education to stand up to the critics. They believe, as do I, that our nation needs lighthouse school districts to share their stories of success. Communities such as Mooresville and Vancouver must take pride in their public schools and feel confident that we are working hard every day to help all students reach their full potential and thrive in a digitally connected, globally interdependent world.

Our selection by NSBA to host a 2013 technology site visit makes Vancouver Public Schools one of those lighthouse districts. In fact, as noted in The Columbian, Vancouver is the only school system in the country to be chosen three times for this honor (1993, 1999, and 2013). Our participation in the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools and our inclusion in the Learning First Alliance success stories are further evidence that VPS is leading the way in transforming outcomes for students and their families. At the local, state and national levels, we’re telling our story as we pursue a hopeful vision of the future for public education.

I encourage you to watch an In the Know episode that captures some highlights from the NSBA site visit. I also want to share just a few comments from the participants:

“If my family wasn’t already planning to leave the Portland metro area, we would seriously be thinking about moving our young family into Vancouver to be a part of your magic.”

“Frankly, this was some of the best use of my time in the past few years. I was inspired by the entire two days. The staff was spectacular. The leadership in each setting was outstanding. I want to say THANK YOU to each person – from students to adults – involved in making this an excellent visitation.”

“Seeing the technology used for authentic learning was impressive. It is refreshing to see new and exciting things happening in the classroom that truly help students explore their passions.”

“The use of teacher-librarians as technology leaders makes an incredible amount of sense, yet so few districts are following that model.”

“This was a fabulously organized tour. Thanks to the Vancouver staff for taking the time and pulling together the resources to provide a highly informative experience.”

“12 out of 10!!!!!!!”

By all accounts, the NSBA site visit to Vancouver Public Schools was a tremendous success. Many of you were involved in making it a memorable experience for our guests. Whether you showcased the use of technology in your school, presented a breakout session, spruced up the facilities and grounds for company or helped with tour logistics, your efforts made our district shine in the national spotlight. On behalf of the Vancouver School Board and the district leadership team, I want to express my deepest appreciation. As we enter the home stretch and get ready to end another school year, please know that I am extremely proud to serve as your superintendent.

Take care,

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