Tech & - School Funding Resource Guide - May 2022

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MAY 2022


School Funding Resource Guide Grant application deadlines, best practices, advice & more!



Education Grants: 5 Guidelines to Win One


By Gwen Solomon


How to RecessionProof Your Technology Department By Dr. Lisa Gonzales & Robert C. Sidford


Using Federal Funds to Invest in Teachers By Susan Gentz


2022-23 Education Grants Calendar By Gwen Solomon


Are Phones Good for Students? By Erik Ofgang

26 5 Tips for Educators From The Superintendent of the Year By Erik Ofgang


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USING FEDERAL FUNDS TO INVEST IN TEACHERS With a significant amount of ESSER and GEER funds still available, district leaders should consider investing in teacher hiring, retention, and professional development


lready we are feeling the effects of “The Great Resignation” across the country but it seems like for educators it is only just beginning. A recent survey from the National Education Association reports that, “A staggering 55 percent of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than they had planned. This represents a significant increase from 37 percent in August and is true for educators regardless of age or years teaching, driving buses, or serving meals to students.” The reasons are many, but the highest percentage of teachers answered they are experiencing burnout. It’s always been a tough job, but most teachers say that all the struggles are worth it. It seems that, for many, the climate good does not currently outweigh the bad.

WHAT CAN WE DO? Staggering amounts of funds still remain in both the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief Fund I (ESSER) and the Governors Education Emergency Relief Fund I (GEER) across the nation, and both of these funding streams have a required obligation of September 30, 2022. That date is now less than 6 months away. Educators are hesitant to spend for a few reasons, as reported by the Digital Learning Collaborative, the Brookings Institute, and Education Week. The hardest threshold to cross for spending the funding seems to

be that district leaders understand that this money will eventually end (in 2024), and to many of them, it does not make sense to invest in something with recurring costs that could end up on the chopping block shortly after the purchase gets up and running. This paired with the ongoing resignation of educators means that now is the most critical time to invest in the people already committed to teaching. Is Saving Funds to Hire Educators the Best Path Forward? According to a study from Future-Ed, many districts are investing in recruitment and retention strategies for staff. They state that, “the Burbio data shows that 60 percent of the districts and charter schools plan to spend on teachers, counselors and interventionists, and more than a third are using it for mental health professionals. The data doesn’t make clear whether the money would go toward hiring new staffers or improve conditions for existing employees. In separate categories, two fifths of districts plan to spend on professional development and one fifth on retention and recruitment of staff.” Two big issues for using the funds to hire new or more educators in the current climate exist: First, these are huge recurring costs for the district, and second, there simply aren’t enough people to hire. This goes across the entire education staff spectrum -- full-time educators and substitutes to bus drivers and lunch ladies -- every role in the district is facing a shortage.



By Susan Gentz

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If districts are planning to use funds to be obligated in the next six months on potential hires, they may still have funds left as there were not enough people to hire, all while trying to ensure the positions currently filled stay that way. Now is the Time to Invest In A Comprehensive Professional Development Plan Education is facing a pinch at both ends of the educator spectrum. According to a survey done by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) they found that, “While pandemic-era national data aren’t yet available, AACTE has surveyed its members in both fall 2020 and fall 2021, and found that in both years, about 20 percent of institutions reported a decline in new undergraduate enrollment of 11 percent or more. That mirrors an overall decline in undergraduate enrollment.” This means that there is a shortage of educators entering the field, and at the other end of the spectrum, as mentioned, current teachers are considering leaving the field at a staggering rate of 55%. With fewer teachers entering the field, and more leaving faster than normal, it will be incredibly challenging to fill all the staffing needs of a


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district with the remaining GEER I or ESSER I funds before the obligation deadline. Retention of current staff must be the focus for the remainder of the first round of stimulus funds and likely beyond. If burnout is the No. 1 reason for educators leaving, the time to invest in personalized professional development opportunities is now. Consider new pathways for learning such as a “PD Playlist” and allow teachers to listen to a podcast, watch a video, read, and do some of their learning on demand. Invest with trusted organizations on how to teach with technology, how to implement SEL strategies for educators and students, and how to effectively communicate with parents and the communities. Professional development has to look different to attract new teachers to a district. Veteran teachers need to be heard, and funds need to be invested to help ease the challenges for why they are ready to leave the profession altogether. There are funds, and The Department of Education (leadership) is encouraging districts to invest in their people. Of course, PD is always an ongoing expense, but investing the funds that need to be spent on people can be done as needed and as available, and there has never been a more critical time to provide support to educators.


2022-23 EDUCATION GRANTS CALENDAR A comprehensive list of the grants and other funding education opportunities available in the year ahead


By Gwen Solomon



ith all of the challenges today, K-12 schools and districts need many things beyond what budgets provide. Yet there always seem to be budget shortfalls rather than increases. One way to supplement district, school, or classroom funding is by winning a grant. Grants vary in size and focus, and can make a big difference not only in the money you have to spend but also for the freedom to try new ideas. Tech & Learning’s free Grant Writing Guide includes resources, step-by-step proposal writing tips, checklists, and other strategies for grant-writing success. What follows are the grants available for K-12 schools and districts in the year ahead, and the corresponding deadlines.

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September 30 Foundation for Rural Service Annual Grant Program


October 1 Association of American Educators Foundation Classroom Grant Toshiba America Foundation Science and Math Grants for Grades K-5 October 5 NSF Discovery Research PreK-12 October 12 NSF Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) in Engineering and Computer Science program October 31 Lawrence Foundation Education Grants Innovative Technology Educ Fund Catapult Grant



August 30 The National Science Foundation Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program


August 31 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation Classroom Grant



September 1 Toshiba America Foundation Science and Math Grants for Grades 6-12

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November 1 Toshiba America Foundation Science and Math Grants for Grades 6-12

DECEMBER 2022 GRANTS & DEADLINES December 1 ITEEA Awards and Scholarships

Toshiba America Foundation Science and Math Grants for Grades 6-12 December 13 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow December 28 National Science Teachers Association Shell Science Teaching Award and the Shell Urban Science Educators Development Award December 31 The Slooh Space Exploration Grant


January 21 American Chemical Society-Hach Professional Development Grant January 30 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and Challenger Center’s Trailblazing STEM Educator Award American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and The Boeing Company’s Boeing Inspires Youth Engagement Program January 31 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) ISTE 20 to Watch Award ISTE Distinguished District Award





February 1 Motorola Solutions Foundation Grants February 20 NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program (S-STEM)


March 1 Association of American Educators Foundation Classroom Grant


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May 1 NEA Foundation Learning & Leadership grants Toshiba America Foundation Science and Math Grants for Grades 6-12

ONGOING YEAR-ROUND GRANTS After School Advantage Program Avantor Foundation Grants Awesome Foundation

May 4 NCTM May 25 ASM Foundation Living in a Material World K-!2 Education Grants

Beckman Coulter Foundation Dollar General Literacy Foundation, Beyond Words Brown Rudnick Community Grants

JUNE 2023 GRANTS & DEADLINES March 15 Vernier Ecology/ Environmental Teaching Award March 31 Fund for Teachers Innovation Grant


June 1 American Chemical Society (ACS)-Hach High School Chemistry Classroom Grant Toshiba America Foundation Science and Math Grants For Grades 6-12 June 30 The Sharon Gewirtz Kids to Concerts Fund

April 14 American Chemical Society (ACS)-Hach High School Chemistry Classroom Grant April 15 America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education April 30 Voya Unsung Heroes Awards Program Lawrence Foundation Education Grants

Corning Foundation Farrell Family Foundation Grants Federal Grants and Programs Lockheed Martin STEM Grants Michael and Susan Dell Foundation Grants Naiku Innovative Educator Grants National Association of Biology Teachers Awards National Education Association Foundation Grants for Educators National Endowment for the Humanities National Science Teaching Association Awards and Recognition Program Reiman Foundation Grants SC Johnson Grants




The 2022 E-rate Applicant Survey of E-rate applicants to understand how the program can best serve schools and libraries is now available for participation. Organized by Funds For Learning, the annual survey provides stakeholder data directly to the Federal Communications Commission to help in the evaluation of competitive bidding regulations and the future of off-campus internet funding via the Emergency Connectivity Fund. E-rate applicants are encouraged to submit their anonymous responses by May 27, 2022.

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Sony Corporation of America Grants Verizon Foundation Westinghouse Charitable Giving Program


When creating a proposal for an education grant, matching ideas and needs across the process is critical By Gwen Solomon


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etting an education grant when so many schools and districts are searching for funds requires having a winning strategy. And having a good strategy prevents the process from seeming overwhelming. Begin by devising a plan for how you will develop the proposal. You can do it on paper or even use project management software to help keep you organized. The tasks to include are: define priorities, assign responsibilities, create a schedule, and stick to deadlines. You’ll also need to communicate with your team and measure progress. You can use the guidelines below (these make a great checklist!) to make sure you’re on track to create a winning proposal. To make it all manageable, you can break down what you should do into five categories. But first things first. Be sure that your ideas and needs match the education grant. If so, you’re ahead of the game. Many people see dollar signs or read the word ‘technology’ in a proposal and don’t really address

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what the funder wants to accomplish. Second, be sure to dovetail your ideas with those outlined in your school or district’s long-range plans. It’s helpful to show how you will further the goals of the wider community. Third, be clear about who the students are that the project will serve. Show how your ideas will make an important difference in their ability to think and learn and in their achievement. Fourth, having the right team, people with the specific abilities to do the work you outline in the proposal, makes all the difference. And there should be an underlying support of materials and professional development to assist teachers and coaches in working with the students. Fifth and last, focus on students and ideas; don’t focus on the technology. And don’t write the proposal as a wish list of things you want. You need to show how technology will support your idea. It’s very important that the technology you request will make a real difference. Be specific.




• Do you clearly understand the mission of the funder? • Is this the best organizational match for your funding request? • Is your idea compelling? Does it show your commitment? • Have you matched your answers to the grant’s selection criteria? • Is your budget realistic?



• Does the education grant proposal tie into what the school or district wants to achieve in the next year or two? • Does the proposal tie into what the school or district has stated it wants to achieve for it’s long term mission? • Does your proposal reflect best practices for instruction and learning? • Does your application include a clear summary that articulates your vision for the project and need for the money within the context of the school or district? • Have you included research data or statistics to support your concept? • Have you defined success and how you will measure the effectiveness of the project throughout the duration of the grant? • Do you have stakeholder buy-in? • Have you conveyed what the impact will be on your school or district if you are successful? • Is your budget detailed and realistic?


• • • • • •



Is your education grant idea meaningful to student learning? Is your idea powerful for student learning? Will it have an important effect? Is it clear how you will implement your proposal? Does your proposal for funds include a sense of urgency? Are there specific, measurable goals and objectives? Is there alignment of your needs, goals, and objectives?



• Have you allocated staff time to manage the project? • Have you outlined the contributions of the people associated

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• • • •

with the application and how their expertise is critical to the project’s success? Have you cross checked the timeline against the budget? Do you have a plan in place to submit progress reports as required by the grant? Have you addressed sustainability after the funds are spent? How will the needs of the community be met moving forward? Is the project replicable by others?



• Have you defined the technology required for each part of the proposal? • Have you outlined how technology is essential in implementing the grant goals? • Have you shown how technology can be used to improve student achievement and/or staff development? • Have you tied the technology expenses to the proposed budget?


Keep the grant criteria in mind as you write your proposal. That will help guide you to address everything and will improve the likelihood of your proposal’s success.


School technology leaders need to recession-proof technology departments to weather potentially tough economic times ahead By Dr. Lisa Gonzales & Robert C. Sidford


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chools are an indispensable part of our society, deeply tied to the economy, with an undisputed role in building the nation’s future. One thing the Great Recession of the mid-2000s taught us is that an infusion of federal stimulus funds may have been helpful, but when those funds dried up, state and local revenues declined, leaving districts in a quandary. Economically, the housing bubble burst, local governments suffered from loss of property taxes, and state governments saw declines in income tax and sales tax revenue, so the Federal government provided a lifeline with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), supporting states with funding for public education since most spent at least half of their budgets on education. All indications are that we are headed into another challenging time

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for public education budgets. While student learning may not be affected directly during a recession, non-instructional services often are notably impacted, including transportation, utilities, student services, student activities, and technology. Why? When budgets are tight, leaders endeavor to keep cuts as far away from the classroom as possible. Thus, reductions are made in “nice to have” programs and projects, such as new technology, equipment upgrades, supplemental programs, professional development, and non-classroom staff, many of which are the backbone of the technology department. Don’t be fooled: the recent boom in demand for technology services during distance learning will not exempt technology departments from difficult budget conversations.


What can technology leaders do to recession-proof their departments and programs? Be transparent about the costs of maintaining technology. Tech is expensive, but it’s more expensive without a plan. Establish and communicate clear, written standards, and maintain a clearly budgeted refresh cycle for all standard equipment. This empowers strategic investments in the hardware and software needed, and helps to leverage any bulk buying discounts.


Identify positions as essential. Many positions will be evaluated when funds get tight, so proactively reviewing all technology department roles and their impact on essential services to students and school sites is critical. Consider creating (and sharing with district leadership) a matrix of responsibilities to clearly identify which positions support which programs. This will help demonstrate the impact of any future budget cuts.


Tie spending to essential student programs. COVID taught us that the use of technology is a critically important learning tool. Whether used to deliver core instruction with digital materials or to deliver an assessment system, technology budgets should be positioned by their support for essential student learning. For example, keeping to a refresh schedule may be much less expensive than the cost of additional tech support positions to maintain outdated equipment. Consider multi-year contracts. During a recession, vendors may experience increased costs and pass these on to districts. Carefully

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negotiated, multi-year contracts can help lock in subsequent years at a reduced or stable rate. Contracts that should be explored include assessment programs, student information and data systems, core IT systems, and supplemental instructional programs used until a curriculum adoption takes place. Money up front can be a bargaining chip for reduced rates into the future to stay with those providers, assuming that any indirect cost to change to a competitor don’t outweigh the savings. Reduce overhead through cooperative agreements. If you haven’t already joined a co-op, a board resolution with a commitment to participate starts the process. The advantage is that competitive prices can be obtained without a lot of haggling or time-consuming negotiations. Cross-train IT staff. When the cuts do come, make sure you’re ready. Identify all services that keep your operation running, and do the best you can to apply the 1+2 rule: one system owner with primary responsibility, and two individuals trained who are ready to step in if necessary. Consider entering a “just-in-case” ad hoc services contract with a partner vendor or managed service provider. Responsible vendors will work with you on this at no cost until you need their services to get you through a tough time. With a recession comes uncertainty. After the last two-and-a-half years of COVID-induced challenges, money remains a hot topic in public education. Recession-influenced spending cuts can significantly impact a technology department. Because the ill-effects of a recession through reduced spending can be felt for years to come, proactively protecting positions, investing in refresh programs, and maximizing remaining funds through long term contracts and partnerships are great ways to mitigate the consequences.

ARE PHONES GOOD FOR STUDENTS? Students are using phones and screens more than ever before and, fortunately, the mental health impact of the devices may be exaggerated. By Erik Ofgang


ow phones are used in education is a divisive topic. Since the pandemic began there has been an effort to ensure every student has a device capable of accessing the internet, and education apps have become more common. Screen use increased by 17 percent among those 8-18 years old between 2019 and 2021, according to a survey by Common Sense Media. Meanwhile, some schools have banned the use of phones altogether, often citing the distractions caused and the perceived links to lack of sleep, depression, and other negative mental health outcomes. However, the extent to which phones impact the mental health of students and help or hinder their education remains unclear.




For a 2020 study, Candice Odgers, a University of California, Irvine professor of psychological science, and a colleague analyzed previous studies that examined the link between phone and technology use and anxiety, depression, and overall mental health. “When you do that, you find that most of the studies find no association,” Odgers says. “The associations that are found are really small and they’re a mix of positive and negative associations.”

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Even those small associations that are found are likely due to confounding factors, Odgers says. In a previous study, Odgers and colleagues followed 400 teens intensively over a four-week period, tracking their tech use and emotional state. “Other studies compare a kid who has one hour of screen time a day versus a kid who has seven, and those are different kids with different families,” Odgers says. “We looked at the same kid over time and on days when this particular kid is using more screens, or more time on social media, or more time on digital tech for school, do we see differences in how they usually are in terms of their symptoms? We found virtually no associations. And when we did find associations, it was in the opposite direction.” On days students used their devices more, they reported better wellbeing and less depression. Odgers says there is a disconnect between the popular perception of phones and the role the devices actually play in the increasing mental health problems we see in young people. “We cautioned against this belief that if we just shut off the phones, it will solve these problems that have been longstanding and are likely rooted in much bigger and systemic issues than in technology,” she says. “That always gets us put in the pro-tech camp, which we’re not. We’re pro kids and pro evidence.”

PHONES IN SCHOOLS PHONES AND LEARNING The discussion about device usage and mental health in young people often takes center stage when phones are banned within school districts. However, the mental health impact of phones should be a separate discussion from whether kids should have access to theirs during class, Odgers says. “That’s up to the teacher and the context,” she says. Another separate issue is how phones and other devices affect education. A 2020 literature review of research examining the impact of phones on learning found frequent cellphone use decreased academic achievement, but the study authors cautioned this association did not equal causation. More research is needed for any sort of definitive answer. Consequently, absent clear research findings, it’s up to school leaders and parents to develop their own rules and guidelines for phone use. Chad A. Rose, director of Mizzou Ed Bully Prevention Lab at the University of Missouri, who studies cyberbullying, understands both sides of the debate around phones in schools, but thinks bans on phone use are unrealistic and unproductive. “I tend to fall on the side of smartphones are a useful tool; social media is a useful tool, and we just have to teach kids how to use them appropriately,” he says.



Regardless of the impact on mental health or role in educational efficiency, the discussion around phones may need to evolve. “It’s a really unrealistic expectation that kids will shut off their phones,” Odgers says. “So the smart and progressive way to look at this is to engage with young people where they live – and spend the majority of their time in some cases – and


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teach them how to do that responsibly.” However, this should not solely be the responsibility of parents and teachers as understanding how data is stored as well as other privacy concerns and risks, is hugely complex and ever-changing. “Social media companies and big platforms need to step into the public and educational square. They cannot offload all of this responsibility,” Odgers says. Rose also believes the conversation around these devices needs to evolve from whether phones should be used to how they can best be used. He advocates for earlier and more robust digital citizenship education in schools that teaches about the permanence and potential consequences of what is posted to social media and written in apps. Rose also believes that distinctions should be made between the types of activities students engage in on their devices. With his daughter, Rose blocks out time away from the phone but also permits and encourages her to incorporate phone use into diverse activities. “So there’s a time for social media, but there’s also a time for reading, and if you want to read on your device, cool,” he says. “There’s a time for doing something creative. If you want to do something creative on your device, great. Then we have time blocked out for physical activity.” Ultimately, for Rose and many others who study technology and its impact on education and children, it comes down to realizing how important these devices are in children’s social lives currently and how important they’ll be in their future careers. “Access to technology, and knowing how to use technology appropriately, is a benefit to everyone,” he says.



Chancellor Day June 9, 2022 8:00AM-2:30PM ET Join one of the largest cross-divisional NYC DOE professional learning opportunities. This interactive virtual event offers sessions to leverage culturally responsive and sustaining practices to support social emotional and academic learning, literacy, digital accessibility and fluency, inclusion, and equity for historically marginalized students, including students with disabilities and multilingual learners. Attendees will be able to earn CTLE credits towards their Professional Development by logging in and attending the live event from 8:00AM – 2:30PM on June 9, 2022.

WHY ATTEND? Network • Speak virtually to staff at tech companies • Connect with peers on how they’re supporting students and families • Connect with educators, librarians, tech SPOCs and more!

Learn • Support for students with IEPs • Accessible website platforms • Equitable access to school libraries

Participate • Converse about accessibility and inclusion • Meet industry leaders


• Discuss how to make school websites accessible


National Superintendent of the Year Curtis Cain advises educators to keep alive the spirit of innovation that emerged during the pandemic and to remember how important the work they do is. By Erik Ofgang


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r. Curtis Cain, superintendent of Wentzville School District in Missouri, was recently named the 2022 AASA National Superintendent of the Year. Cain acknowledges that the last two years have been tumultuous, but as challenging as it’s been, it has also created opportunities for educators to learn in new ways.



“The brain, once stretched, never returns to its initial size,” says Cain of the ways that schools have changed. His

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Dr. Curtis Cain

advice to staff in his district and beyond is to keep alive the spirit of innovation that was born in the pandemic. “The needs of students have absolutely become more complex and more nuanced. And in many ways more urgent than they have been in the past,” he says. “So we’re going to have to keep having the ability to demonstrate a willingness to sit at the table, to problem solve.” School leaders need to think about students holistically and about their overall well-being socially and emotionally, not just their academic performance. “We’re gonna have to continue to make sure that those needs are paramount and top priority in any and everything that we’re doing,” he says.

In our virtual Roundtable webinars, Dr. Kecia Ray talks with leaders from across the country about how they are solving some of the biggest challenges facing today’s schools and districts. REGISTER FOR FREE for our upcoming Tech & Learning Roundtables or catch up on the previous ones with our on-demand content now available.


Join us as an exclusive webinar sponsor and your brand will be positioned as a trusted partner to help districts navigate through the ever-changing education landscape. For more information please contact: Allison Knapp at or 415-806-5704

Register now at

Our Summits provide a full agenda including working groups, keynote addresses, panel discussions, and interactive activities, as well as our announcement of the awards winners (see the next page). Join us for:

Summits Are Back – In Person! Calling all Superintendents, CTOs, CAOs, Instructional, and Tech District Leaders – join us for our free upcoming Regional Leadership Summits! The Tech & Learning team knows it has been stressful, managing expectations of families and faculty during COVID while trying to take care of the education of young students. The Tech & Learning Regional Leadership Summits allow district leaders to come together in an intimate, relaxed, face-to-face setting to talk candidly about how to recover from the impact of COVID while focusing on the needs of students and faculty with a future focus. Come join us to share, listen, and learn about the great work going on in your region!

Find out more about our upcoming New Orleans and Texas Summits New Orleans: June 25, 2022 Texas: September 23, 2022

Our Regional Leadership Summits will be continuing in October. See our website for updates.

Networking • Collaborate with other technology and curriculum district leaders • Share ideas and best practices • Expand your PLN through this new community Learning • Get the latest news about school funding • Walk away with specific actions for your strategic planning • Meet with industry partners to learn about the latest edtech on the market Participation • Participate in group discussions focused on important topics related to strategic planning • Make valuable connections and understand how you can maintain a support group after the conference is over

To learn how your company can benefit from a sponsorship, contact: Allison Knapp | Sales Manager (415) 806-5704 Please note, the safety of our sponsors, staff and delegates is important to us and we will be following all COVID health and safety guidelines during the events. For more information and guidance, please keep an eye on our website

Celebrating outstanding school district leaders CATEGORIES Best Implementation of Data Privacy

Our NEW Awards program Tech & Learning’s new Regional Leadership Summits have added a new awards program to recognize outstanding school district leaders in the regions of our upcoming Summits. We will recognize exceptional district administrators who are leading innovation in their schools. We’re seeking district leaders who not only drove innovation during the pandemic, but plan to take these lessons learned to reimagine and reinvent education moving forward. These awards allow you to nominate yourself or another district level colleague who you feel deserves recognition for the outstanding work they do. Entry deadlines vary per region, be sure to check your deadline and make sure you don’t miss out! Finalists will be invited to the Summit, where our winners will be crowned.

Best Example of Sustainable Classrooms Best Example of Teacher & Student Wellbeing Programs Most Innovative Learning Spaces Best Implementation of Digital Curriculum Best Overall Implementation of Technology

WHY YOU SHOULD NOMINATE YOURSELF OR ANOTHER DISTRICT LEADER: Finalists receive: • An exclusive invitation to attend the applicable Regional Leadership Summit including the awards ceremony, all sessions, discussions and networking • A complimentary hotel stay • Recognition in an issue of Tech & Learning magazine… • …and on the Tech & Learning website In addition to the above, winners will receive: • An exclusive interview and profile in Tech & Learning magazine and on the Tech & Learning website • A Tech & Learning Innovative Leader Award Seal that can be added to all district websites

NOMINATIONS (Deadline - 1PM Local Time) TEXAS July 29 Our Innovative Leader Awards will be continuing. Check our website for updates.




“One piece that I really have been reflecting upon is how important we are,” Cain says. “It’s never ever been about us, but it is about the work that we engage in. And it is about what we offer to communities, families, and ultimately, students.” School shutdowns highlighted how critical schools and the connection they foster can be, Cain says. “If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that fact that isolation is very troubling. And it’s not just troubling for pre-K through 12 students, it’s troubling for adults as well.”




Differentiating based on student skill levels and needs is not new but it remains necessary. “If you go back to the one-room schoolhouse, that’s almost a textbook definition of meeting students where they are,” Cain says. “In that case, students had differentiated grades and ages.” He adds, “Today, using different modalities and pieces of technology and pedagogy, what we’re doing is simply meeting students wherever they happen to be, and we’re adding as much growth and value as we can on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.”




“I think it’s important that districts, and ultimately, school organizations are really defining terms such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, not by what’s going on at the national, state, or even regional

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level, but by what this means in district X,” Cain says. “With the charge that some of these terms bring right now, it’s really important that you are owning that and you understand what it is you’re offering students and families, and you take pride in that.” Doing this can offset some concerns or debates that might arise given the politically charged climate of the country. “If there are students who have differentiated levels of reading comprehension, we go about meeting those needs, that’s equity,” Cain says. “We, as organizations, believe that it’s important that kids be able to come to school and not be hungry over the course of the day. One, because it’s important for their physical health, but two, they’re not going to learn if they’re hungry and their stomachs are literally growling. That is an equity-based response.”



When parents do have concerns with school policies, Cain says it’s important for teachers and district leaders to listen. “I personally and professionally believe parents have a right to know what is happening with their kids, literally on a daily basis,” he says. “They have every right. And that for me isn’t new. I believe moving forward, that’s still gonna be very, very true. I call it a sacred trust that happens when you’re working with families and with students, and we need to be just cognizant of that fact.” In addition, teachers and school employees should be reminded of just how much people appreciate their work. “There is joy, and value and dignity in this job,” he says. “There’s pride in what we’re doing. And there really is a true appreciation from parents in terms of what educators do on a daily basis. Never lose sight of that.”

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