A little while ago we sat down with Superintendent Scott Laurence to talk about why he signed the Future Ready pledge, his plans for the district, and where he sees education heading.
Below you will find more information on the Carmel Unified School District and Superintendent Laurence—please scroll down to read the interview itself.
About the Carmel Unified School District
Location: Carmel, CA
The Carmel Unified School District (CUSD) spans Carmel-by-theSea, Carmel Valley, and Big Sur. CUSD has three elementary schools (Carmel River in Carmel; Tularcitos in Carmel Valley; and Captain Cooper in Big Sur); one middle school (Carmel Middle); and one high school (Carmel High). Additionally, CUSD has a continuation high school (Carmel Valley High), an adult school, and various child development programs. Learn more about the district schools, and the district itself.
The Carmel High School was recognized last year by the US News Best High Schools Ranking as a Gold Medal Winner, placing it the top 1% of high schools in the nation. The school has previously received the Gold Medal honor, but this time they moved even higher in the rankings, placing 33rd in the state of California, and 196th in the nation.
District Mission Statement: “The Carmel Unified School District community produces lifelong learners who are prepared for the challenge of higher education, the workplace, and their role as citizens of an ever-changing global community.” Visit the district website to learn more, or view the district’s long range goals and objectives.
About Superintendent Scott Laurence
Prior to joining the Carmel district this school year, Superintendent Laurence served as the superintendent of the San Mateo Union High School District for the previous six years. Before joining the San Mateo UHSD, Superintendent Laurence spent nearly 25 years working as a teacher, principal, and administrator in the Palo Alto Unified School District.
On the decision to hire Superintendent Laurence, Carmel Unified Board President Rita Patel says: “The board found Mr. Laurence to be the best overall candidate in all areas of school district leadership, including curriculum and instruction, budget development, fiscal oversight, facilities improvement and human resources. He is well known and respected as a student-centered leader who is highly visible, approachable and accessible. We look forward to his joining the Carmel unified family as our new superintendent.”
The Interview Starts Here!
Q: Can you tell us about your history regarding edtech and the use of technology in the classroom?
A: This is my first year as superintendent here in Carmel. I was previously in San Mateo, where we did a lot of work to bring technology into the classroom.
In San Mateo we used e-rate funds to expand our bandwidth, and worked with the Santa Clara County Office of Education to do so in a cost-efficient manner.
Computer literacy was also an important goal in our work in San Mateo. You can put a Chromebook or tablet or iPad in front of a student, but if 20% of your student population is ELL and you’re talking about dragging-and-dropping, etc, those are skills 20% of our population doesn’t have. Computer literacy can also be a socio-economic issue. You can’t just assume that all of your students will have the same background or starting place when it comes to the use of technology.
Q: Can you tell us about the Future Ready-aligned initiatives currently in place in the Carmel district?
A: In the last two years Carmel went 1:1 with technology in grades K-8, which has been a huge initiative, and it’s very exciting to now have the devices in students’ hands and be up and running.
We also increased our bandwidth in the district significantly, which was a crucial part of putting all those devices in the classroom. Without the infrastructure to support new devices, the devices themselves would be useless.
Q: What are some of the concrete benefits to signing the Future Ready pledge?
A: The pledge helps explains to community members why technology is important, and serves to galvanize your community around a common goal.
Signing the pledge helps you demonstrate that you really believe in edtech and helping your entire district prepare students for the world as it is now, not as it was. Signing gives you leverage with a larger consortium to convince your community, local politicians, and family members, that you all have a common goal for your students. If you can get a large consortium of folks working together in one direction, that alone is a very powerful thing.
Q: Can you recommend any best practices or give any advice on how to implement the use of technology in the classroom?
→ Professional development is crucial. It’s essential that you train teachers before giving any devices to students. If teachers don’t know how the devices work they won’t use them, and they could actually be detrimental instead of positive. You can’t just invest in technology as another tool without also investing in training to implement.
→ Not all professional development is created equal. It’s really important to vet your PD. I’m on the national board of an organization called Learning Forward, which has a PD Counsel, and a lot of what we use in the way of instructional technology and assessments goes through that counsel. I would highly recommend administrators using Learning Forward or WestEd or some other organization to make sure your PD is of high quality.
→ Use instructional practices as a benchmark. In San Mateo we had release days where Teachers on Special Assignment would go to schools to support teachers. If, for instance, a math department wanted to do something, we would run pilots and work with a team of teachers on curriculum in various different classes. If we were talking about 9th grade algebra, we would test run iPads in classroom. Once we did these smaller tests, we’d see if the effort could be scaled up and brought to other classrooms, or district-wide.