Superintendent of the Year Emphasized Tech, Reduced Dropouts

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — February 22, 2013 2 min read
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Mark A. Edwards, the superintendent of the 5,590-student Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina, is the American Association of School Administratorssuperintendent of the year. The award was announced yesterday at the opening of the AASA’s annual conference in Los Angeles.

Edwards’ focus on technology has brought national attention to the district. Education Week featured Mooresville’s one-to-one laptop program, which has been held up as a model for school districts looking to use technology effectively.

Mooresville, located about 30 miles north of Charlotte, has seen its graduation rate increase from 73 percent in 2007, when Edwards arrived in the district, to 90 percent last year. Yet Mooresville has less per-pupil funding than most districts in the state, and 40 percent of its students are eligible for federally subsidized free or reduced-price lunches.

Adam Frankel, the executive director of Digital Promise, a nonprofit focused on digital learning of which Edwards is a founding member, also released a statement on Edwards’ award: “Mark is one of the most respected educators in the country when it comes to digital learning. He has chaired the advisory committee of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools...Mooresville is a small town, but because of Mark’s leadership, it has had an outsized impact on American education.”

Dan Domenech, the executive director of the AASA, praised Edwards as an effective 21st century leader. “He has combined the savvy to lead a digital revolution in his schools with the wisdom to know that teachers teach their best and children learn their best in an environment that promotes mutual caring and respect,” he said in a press release.

The AASA has a profile of Edwards—Did you know he founded and sings bass in a faculty choir?—and a cute “odds and ends” page, in which Edwards talks about the importance of reflective leadership and humility. He shares an anecdote: “While accompanying a group of visitors to the school district, a classroom teacher walked toward us. ‘You are a godsend,’ she said. I thought, ‘Wow, she’s talking to me; I’ve never been called that.’”

Then, he said, the teacher walked right past him toward a technical support person who was giving back her computer.

Edwards will receive a $10,000 scholarship to award to a student from his high school or from a high school in Mooresville.

Wanda Cook-Robinson, the superintendent of the Southfield Public Schools in Southfield, Mich.; C.J. Huff, the superintendent of Joplin Public Schools in Joplin, Mo.; and
Maryalice Russell, the superintendent of the McMinnville School District in McMinnville, Ore., were this year’s finalists.

Other recent winners include Marcus Johnson of the Sanger Unified School District in California (2011), Elizabeth Molina Morgan of the Washington County school district in Maryland (2010), and Heath Morrison, who was superintendent in Washoe County, Nevada, and is now leading the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools (2012).

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.