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Affecting Change Through Effective Leadership - Kate L. Moore, former President of the Schools and Libraries Division

July 2001

Leadership in education is an issue that is currently being discussed at many levels. Education leaders - whether they are school board members, superintendents, principals, teachers, technology coordinators or even students - all face a number of challenges and even roadblocks when integrating technology into the learning environment. Many school leaders embrace the opportunity to have modern classrooms and schools; however, this enthusiasm is coupled with, and often challenged by, the need to improve standardized tests score and overall student achievement.

In a conversation with Kate L. Moore, former President of the Schools and Libraries Division ("SLD") of the Universal Service Administrative Company (the organization that administers the E-rate), we talked about leadership in general and in relation to her experience leading the nation's largest education technology program for the past three years.

We began by looking at the characteristics of a leader. According to Ms. Moore, "leaders must be able to define a vision, possess good salesmanship; be attune to the existing environment; remain focused and be persistent."

Moore explained that while President of SLD, the leadership approach she embraces combined vision with action. To achieve her vision, she needed to mobilize resources that would help implement the E-rate effectively and efficiently. With this leadership approach in mind, here were several attributes that she believe contributed to the SLD's success:

  • Quality People in the Right Place: Identifying the right staff is a critical element. Each member of the staff must support the vision and have the capacity to accomplish his or her tasks. At the SLD, we had to identify and recruit individuals who could not only help achieve the mission and vision, but who also had the ability to build capacity as needed. Each team member had to work well with others, taking on responsibilities outside of their area of expertise.

  • Support, Information and Feedback: Build support networks, whether they are school board members, community activities or local businesses, and seek their advice, listen to their feedback and ask for heir input on how to improve upon existing programs. The SLD staff augmented our capacity by developing a network of stakeholders from various education technology entities. This network - which consisted of national, state and local educators, industry representatives and public policy advisors - has provided counsel to the SLD throughout the past 4 years and has contributed to the success of the E-rate program.

  • Assess the Environment: Implementing change is a tricky maneuver and as a leader, it is important to be attuned to attitudes of the surrounding environment. At the SLD, we used our support network to help us monitor what educators were thinking about the E-rate. Because of these close ties, we were able to modify outreach accordingly, whether it was additional information, more guidance, or even changes to our implementation procedures.

  • Effective Communications: Getting the word out to the right individuals is an important element of success, whether you are communicating to internal staff, a support network, or to the public. By communicating current news and information in an effective manner, a leader can achieve the vision at many levels by keeping all stakeholders informed, and by providing a means of gathering feedback and advice. At the SLD, our communications strategy was to provide regular updates on the application process, clear guidance about programmatic changes, issue reminders and share news about pending deadlines. We utilized every communication channel - web sites, listservs, traditional press, and our networks. We sought advice from select members of our network on how to "frame" major news that might disrupt the existing programmatic environment. Our communications strategy also allowed us to conduct some informal market research on our programmatic implementation and our communication strategy.

Other techniques Moore employed at the SLD included: giving credit to everyone who contributed to the E-rate's success, no matter how large or small. She also used feedback mechanisms to assist in evaluation procedures, both formal and informal. Moore also suggested that having a passion to achieve the vision is a characteristic that is common among successful leaders and certainly an important element of her leadership style at the SLD.

Moore's advice to school leaders interested in building support for technology within their communities was that "success is a great salesman." She stated that if the school leader can demonstrate that technology has a positive, measurable impact on educational gains, then the chances for success increase geometrically.

She admitted that at the SLD, the tides of support began to shift once funding allocations were issued. It was when funding commitments were sent that the E-rate discounts became real. When this happened, "there was a sea change about the program - there was new commitment to the program, hope for the program; new supporters," explained Moore.

When it comes to utilizing technology to meet educational success, Moore suggests that school leaders do not necessarily need to know everything there is to know about technology. However, she stated, they need to understand and recognize the need for it and figure out how technology can work to benefit education in their schools. She suggests that school leaders turn to a stakeholder support group who can provide feedback on how technology is impacting student learning and achievement. She believes it is critical for teachers to understand how to utilize technology in order to be able to engage it successfully in the classroom. Moore encouraged professional development for teachers and school leaders and advocated more evaluation of learning outcomes with technology.

Kate L. Moore is an elementary school teacher in the District of Columbia. She resigned as President of the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Company in June 2001.