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Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director
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11-21-14 Digital Transition Focus: GSCS President Sampson Goes to Washington

On Thursday, November 20, 2014 President Chuck Sampson was privileged to be selected to join with 100 school superintendents from around the U.S. to go to the nation’s capital and to hear in person from President Obama, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, among others. The focus of the gathering was technology – the digital transition -  in education and promises a productive network of collaboration and digital learning for the future. Congratulations Chuck!

Our GSCS President, Charles Sampson, Superintendent of Freehold Regional School District was humbled to be invited to join the inaugural ConnectED to the Future summit, which gathered 100 district superintendents from across the country in Washington DC on November 19 to collaborate and learn from one another as leaders in education’s digital transition. As part of the experience, Mr. Sampson reflected on the importance of the digital transition for students:

'This transition promises to shatter some of the pedagogical norms of the past. These norms have too often dragged on the potential of students to engage with their learning through collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication. As we push the boundaries of teaching and learning beyond the traditional schoolhouse, this network of district leaders who are each grappling with this transition will only embolden our work here in the Freehold Regional High School District and to our member districts within the Garden State Coalition of Schools.

When asked to describe what being #FutureReady meant to me, I found the answer to be obvious: leveraging technology to provide individualized educational experiences, access, opportunities and support for ALL. In effectively utilizing the digital tools around us, we can effect equity and college and career readiness so that today’s heavy lift is tomorrow’s low hanging fruit.

Our students deserve nothing less.'

 

NJ Spotlight - NJ School Chiefs Rub Elbows with Obama, Top Education Officials at White House…Eight superintendents among 100 nationwide selected to attend summit on learning and technology ‘Freehold Regional Superintendent (and GSCS President) Charles Sampson said it was a one-of-a-kind opportunity to be in the same room as Obama, Duncan and others talking about education… In addition to Perry (Haddonfield) and Sampson, the other six New Jersey school superintendents attending the White House event were from Elizabeth, Freehold Township, Pascack Regional, West Morris, Somerville and Summit. (GSCS note: With 8 superintendents selected by the federal officials, New Jersey had the largest contingent in the group, followed by California with 6.)

 

John Mooney | November 21, 2014

This school week was little more exciting than usual for eight New Jersey school chiefs -- they were among 100 superintendents nationwide invited to the White House to take part in the “ConnectED to the Future” summit on technology and how it's changing education.

There was no shortage of star-struck educators on Thursday as participants heard from President Obama himself and also sat down with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. But it wasn’t all amicable, as one New Jersey schools chief described some pushback on Duncan during discussion of the federal role in bringing more high-stakes testing – and more angst -- to the nation’s schools.

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President Obama at ConnectEd Summit

Overall, though, it was mostly a feel-good event focused on how technology can improve education, albeit with challenges that come with it.

“The president really spoke from the heart about education,” said Richard Perry, the superintendent of Haddonfield schools. “With all the dreadful news that has been out there, he talked about the tremendous job that schools have been doing and said he wanted to give us the support we need.”

Ostensibly, the event was to promote the opportunities available through online technologies to broaden the education available to students. At the same time, officials also addressed the wide disparities in access to such technologies in different parts of the country, with some estimates saying just 40 percent of districts nationwide have broadband capacity.

Perry, who was paired at one point with New York City schools chancellor Carmen Farina, said he was struck by what disparate school districts have in common.

“We all had varying needs, but there were a lot of similar things we had in common,” Perry said. “Our students all still learn in a similar manner, and it was about getting the technology in their hands and the training needed for teachers.”

He said Farina cited challenges she faces in New York City that were familiar to him, including infrastructure capacity and the limits of teacher contracts.

“Of course, they aren’t dealing with the same (property tax) caps, and they have a lot more money than we do,” Perry noted.

Freehold Regional Superintendent Charles Sampson said it was a one-of-a-kind opportunity to be in the same room as Obama, Duncan and others talking about education. During the president’s speech, Sampson sat next to the White House’s chief technology officer, Megan Smith.

“I got to sit in the front row next to the chief technology officer,” Sampson said. “It was phenomenal.”

There was also some back-and-forth about some of the more controversial pieces of Obama’s education agenda, namely the new testing and accountability that was largely propelled by the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” competition.

‘For a number of superintendents, the questions were critical,” Sampson said. “For all these issues being discussed about connectivity, these are things that can’t be measured in test scores. That was the elephant in the room.”

Duncan was questioned in particular about the teacher-evaluation rules tied to student performance, Sampson said. And there was some discussion of the coming advent of new online testing, although that wasn’t talked about much.

“Only one time did he mention PARCC or Smarter Balance,” Sampson said, alluding to the two testing instruments being used by states, including New Jersey. “I remember, because it stood out. But it was a drive-by.”

Still, Sampson said it was a valuable chance to hear directly from national leaders. He said regional summits are planned for the coming months, and attending superintendents were each given assignments to flesh out their own plans.

“It was a phenomenal experience,” Sampson said. “The whole essence of bringing together 100 folks who had demonstrated some sort of excellence in this area, I think all of us had a feeling of excitement coming out of it. It was really inspiring.”

In addition to Perry and Sampson, the other six New Jersey school superintendents attending the White House event were from Elizabeth, Freehold Township, Pascack Regional, West Morris, Somerville and Summit.

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828



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