CoSN Honors EdTech Champions Driving Innovation in U.S. School Districts During 2021 Annual Conference

Washington, DC
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
CoSN today announced this year’s education technology award winners during its Annual Conference. The 2021 winners are individuals and groups that are driving innovative teaching and learning in school districts across the United States by championing the equitable use of technology in both in-person and virtual classrooms.
 
CoSN’s 2021 award winners are:
 
  • District Team Leadership Award: Fort Thomas Independent Schools (KY)
 
  • Community Leadership for Digital Equity Award: Desert Sands Unified School District (CA)
 
  • Hurley Private Sector Champion Award: Mary Schlegelmilch, Education, Business Development, U.S. Public Sector, SLED, Cisco Systems, Inc. (NE)
 
  • Volunteer of the Year Award: Don Ringelestein, Chief Technology Officer, Maine Township High School District 207 (IL)
 
  • Withrow Outstanding CTO of the Year Award: Bryon Kolbeck, Chief of Technology, Lewisville Independent School District (TX)
 
  • CoSN & AASA EmpowerED Digital Superintendent of the Year Award: Dr. Michael Hinojosa, Superintendent, Dallas Independent School District (TX) and Dr. Jeff Stephens, Superintendent, Weber School District (UT)
 
  • Excellence in Public Service Award: The Honorable Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and The Honorable Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL)
 
“Looking back at the past year, so many school districts, chief technology officers, superintendents and other education leaders stepped up to the plate and led their communities through the most abrupt digital transformation in recent history. Those that we are honoring today stood out among an impressive list of 2020 accomplishments from edtech experts across the country,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “We admire their unwavering commitments to innovation, digital equity and accessibility, and look forward to seeing what the future of learning may look like with these leaders at the helm.”
 
More information on each winner is below, including links to watch videos highlighting winners’ impressive accomplishments and/or remarks.
 
 
District Team Leadership Award: Fort Thomas Independent Schools (KY)
 
The District Team Leadership Award, sponsored by ENA/CatchOn, recognizes an exceptional district team for leveraging technology to improve learning opportunities and access. This award emphasizes CoSN’s belief that the district leadership team is crucial to the digital transformation. The 2021 award goes to the team at Ft. Thomas Independent Schools in Kentucky. Seven years ago, the academic and IT professionals in the district teamed up to equip every K-12 student with an iPad or MacBook. When in-person learning stopped abruptly last year, this infrastructure served as the foundation for a successful digital learning transition. The district shared a video for 40 nights in a row on social media highlighting how creative learning experiences were taking shape. With the help of industry leaders, Ft. Thomas Independent Schools has also established the “Portrait of a Graduate” program to measure student competency; each student is working towards demonstrating competencies to share how they have exemplified key skills for the workplace of the future. Watch April Hughes, Account Service Manager at CatchOn, present the award to them here.
 
Community Leadership for Digital Equity Award: Desert Sands Unified School District (CA)
 
CoSN created the Community Leadership for Digital Equity Award, sponsored by Kajeet, to encourage and recognize districts that are working to minimize the Homework Gap. Desert Sands Unified School District (DSUSD) was hard at work on award-winning equity and access initiatives even before the pandemic hit, building its own LTE network through a public-private partnership. This project proved invaluable during COVID-19-mandated distance learning and was recognized by the Government Accountability Office in a report to Congress on ways to close the digital divide. The district has continued to prioritize accessibility and innovation by leveraging CARES Act funding to accelerate its technology masterplan. DSUSD is not only making a mark on the national stage, but also connecting with its community through virtual “Bailey & Coffee” chats with the superintendent — which have brought in thousands of guests — and a new “Classroom Conversations” series. Watch Michael Flood, SVP & GM of Education at Kajeet, present the award to DSUSD here.
 
Hurley Private Sector Champion Award: Mary Schlegelmilch, Education, Business Development, U.S. Public Sector, SLED, Cisco Systems, Inc. (NE)
 
The Hurley Private Sector Champion honor, named after edtech leader Kathy Hurley, annually recognizes one person who has had an outstanding impact on the education technology community outside of the confines of his or her job. The 2021 Hurley Private Sector Champion Award is going to a corporate leader who has pushed CoSN to lead on issues like cybersecurity and network design: Mary Schlegelmilch of Cisco Systems, Inc. Mary works closely with school district technology leaders across the country and ensures that CoSN hears about great policy and practice.
 
Volunteer of the Year Award: Don Ringelestein, Chief Technology Officer, Maine Township High School District 207 (IL)
 
The Volunteer of the Year award recognizes the achievements of one CoSN member who has provided exemplary support to the organization over the past year. This, year Don Ringelestein was named CoSN’s Volunteer of the Year. Don has been a prime mover in one of CoSN’s largest chapters: Illinois. He has been strong in volunteering to do Peer Reviews for school districts. He is a CETL and serves as a leader on CoSN’s Certification Governance Committee. On top of that, Don is consistently first to raise his hand to volunteer and gives his time generously to CoSN and the Illinois chapter.
 
Withrow Outstanding CTO of the Year Award: Bryon Kolbeck, Chief of Technology, Lewisville Independent School District (TX)
 
The Withrow Outstanding CTO of the Year Award, sponsored by ClassLink and named after long-time edtech leader Frank Withrow, recognizes an individual who has been a key education innovator. Bryon Kolbeck, Chief of Technology at Lewisville Independent School District (ISD) in Texas, is a leading edtech expert committed to student success and digital learning accessibility. As a member of his superintendent’s cabinet, Bryon has championed new digital learning opportunities for students, promoted digital citizenship and advocated for stronger student data privacy protections. His efforts have led to his district earning the Trusted Learning Environment seal and the Texas state legislature’s passage of a 2017 data privacy law. He has also worked with corporate partners to expand access to online learning, including teaming up with Sprint’s 1Million Project to provide internet hotspots for almost 400 underserved high school students in Lewisville ISD. Watch Berj Akian, Founder and CEO of ClassLink, present the award to Bryon here.
 
CoSN & AASA EmpowerED Digital Superintendent of the Year Award: Dr. Michael Hinojosa, Superintendent, Dallas Independent School District (TX) and Dr. Jeff Stephens, Superintendent, Weber School District (UT)
WATCH DALLAS ISD HERE AND WEBER SCHOOL DISTRICT HERE
 
The EmpowerED Digital Superintendent of the Year Award, sponsored by ClassLink, honors a specific leader who has championed the use of technology to enhance learning. This year, as superintendents across the country navigated massive shifts in the education landscape, CoSN & AASA, The School Superintendents Association, are celebrating two impressive leaders — Dr. Michael Hinojosa of Dallas ISD and Dr. Jeff Stephens of Weber School District (WSD). In Texas, Dr. Hinojosa helped mastermind Operation Connectivity, which has expanded access to digital learning across the state by connecting over half a million students to the internet. He has spent years fostering equity in Dallas schools by championing a two-way dual language program, ACE program and tech-focused Career Institute. Meanwhile, out west in Utah, Dr. Stephens created a Technology Commission made up of key stakeholders to plan and implement a five-year technology roadmap for WSD. Not only has he assisted the district’s equity department in getting students that lack at-home internet access online, but he has gone a step further to establish a technology advocate role that directly assists these parents and students with the digital transition. Watch Berj Akian, Founder and CEO of ClassLink, present the award to each of them here.
 
Excellence in Public Service Award: The Honorable Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and The Honorable Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL)
WATCH REP. MATSUI’S REMARKS HERE AND READ GOV. IVEY’S REMARKS HERE
 
The Excellence in Public Service Award recognizes national, state or local officials who have promoted the use of safe and secure technology as a tool to improve teaching and learning, strengthening CoSN’s nationwide advocacy efforts. This year’s winners are U.S. Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL), emphasizing the importance of bipartisan support for edtech policies. Rep. Matsui has served as a champion for K-12 cybersecurity on Capitol Hill. In 2020, she introduced the Enhancing K-12 Cybersecurity Act (H.R.8612), which would enlist the Department of Homeland Security to better protect and promote the privacy of student and teacher data. At the state level, Governor Ivey has played a key role in ensuring that all Alabama students have access to broadband internet during the pandemic, leading the charge to establish the Alabama Broadband Connectivity for Students program in 2020 and through 2021. This serves as an excellent leadership example of using CARES Act funding to address the Homework Gap.
 
Additional information about CoSN’s annual awards program is available at: cosn.org/awards.
 
MEDIA CONTACT:
Heidi Payter, hpayter@fratelli.com, 202-822-9491
 
CoSN kicked off its Annual Conference, CoSN2021: Brave & Bold, on Tuesday, March 2. The three-day virtual Conference highlights how edtech professionals, teachers, superintendents and other education leaders can improve learning through technology in an equitable way that fosters diversity and inclusion and social-emotional student success. Keep up with live updates on CoSN’s Twitter and via #cosn2021. The 2021 CoSN Conference is made possible through the generous support of its sponsors.
 
About CoSN
CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking) is the premier professional association for school system technology leaders. CoSN provides thought leadership resources, community best practices and advocacy tools to help leaders succeed in the digital transformation. CoSN represents over 13 million students in school districts nationwide and continues to grow as a powerful and influential voice in K-12 education. cosn.org