A little while ago we sat down to speak with Superintendent Kathy Gomez about why she signed the Future Ready pledge, her plans for her district, and where she sees education heading.
Below you will find more information about Evergreen and Superintendent Gomez—Please scroll down to read the interview itself.
About the Evergreen Elementary School District
Location: San Jose, CA
Locale: Urban/Large City
Evergreen is an incredibly socioeconomically diverse, largely urban district southeast of San Jose. Located close to the heart of the tech industry in Silicon Valley, the community includes an array of backgrounds, from affluent families who work in technology to families who work in service and labor industries. The district includes 15 elementary schools and 3 middle schools.
Superintendent Gomez believes strongly that innovation and educational excellence are critical to making sure today’s students are prepared for tomorrow’s opportunities. Consequently, Evergreen School District has developed partnerships with educational innovators including the New Tech Network, the Buck Institute for Education and WestEd.
From the district’s website: “We are responsive, future thinking, and reflective of the innovative community in which we live. We aspire to provide an unparalleled education for our students, one that will prepare them for the world that awaits them. We embody the warmth of a family, one that looks out for one another at all times.”
About Superintendent Kathy Gomez
Superintendent Gomez has taken a strong leadership role in education and the use of technology in the classroom, not just in her district but throughout California. In 2013 she served as an invited judge for the iHub Pitch Games contest co-sponsored by the Silicon Valley Education Fund and the NewSchools Venture Fund, in which edtech vendors competed in a ‘Shark Tank’-like contest to pitch their ideas and products for improving education.
Superintendent Gomez has a deep history of experience in education, and has served as an educator in the Evergreen School District for the past 26 years. During that time she has held positions such as teacher, principal, and Director of Educational Services. She is currently in her fourth year as Superintendent.
The Interview Starts Here!
Q: Why did you sign the Future Ready pledge?
A: We signed because, in many ways, the pledge embodied practices we had already put in place, and served as a nice unifying umbrella for our existing initiatives.
A lot of our work around Future Ready in the district centers on two schools, Bulldog Tech and Katherine Smith Elementary, which are part of the New Tech Network. The instruction at both schools is largely Project Based Learning (PBL), with a strong emphasis on the 4 Cs (Crtitical Thinking; Communication; Collaboration; Creativity).
In the district we believe that hard work must go into creating a culture that supports students and teachers to make sure that when kids leave their schools they’re empowered, they know how to ask good questions, and they know where to go to find good answers. We see technology as a tool that empowers students to learn in real time on their own, without having to wait for someone else to provide answers to their questions.
Q: Can you tell us about struggles and triumphs you’ve encountered when rolling out edtech in the district?
A major struggle that arises with this effort is in helping people to see that learning doesn’t just mean cramming information into students’ heads and then asking them to regurgitate it on a test, but rather learning means helping students find answers themselves and then use those answers to find additional questions and tap into their own curiosity.
Part of this struggle is the process of helping teachers see their jobs in a different way. Helping them become really good at letting go, which means changing ideas about our historical ideas of what a teacher is and does. Most teachers “get it”—helping them find ways to do let go and let their students be successful in a more independent format is really the crux of our main challenge.
Q: Can you share some best practices or advice with other administrators?
A: You can’t just throw technology into an environment with people who aren’t comfortable using it. When placing devices into teachers’ hands, they have to be shown how to use them and be given the support they need to feel comfortable with the device.
Our teachers and principals have become very comfortable with the use of technology, and can now learn how to use new apps and new systems pretty rapidly.
My advice for other superintendents is to remember that whatever is good for students in the school is also good for adults. When we’re talking about the 4 Cs, keep in mind that they’re just as important for the adults in the building as they are for the students.
Q: What are some concrete benefits you’ve gotten from signing the Future Ready pledge?
A: The pledge provides you with connections to other like-minded education leaders across the country.
It really opens us as administrators up to learning from each other, instead of just connecting with those colleagues that happen to be in our immediate area, which means you have a much bigger network when it comes to learning from your peers.
END OF INTERVIEW