CALSA Celebrates its 10th Annual Focus on Results Symposium

Spotlight
The three-day gathering of California’s Latino superintendents and administrators culminates with a win by NextLesson
By: 
Christopher Piehler

The California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA) held its 10th annual Focus on Results (FOR) Symposium from January 29–31 at the Clement Monterey Hotel in Monterey, CA. According to CALSA President Alejandro Hogan, “CALSA sponsors FOR as an opportunity for school administrators to come together with our corporate partners to review and provide input on the new teaching materials or school support wares that have been recently developed. It’s also an opportunity for the school administrators and representatives to influence the quality of the materials presented.”

The Symposium kicked off with a welcome breakfast hosted by CALSA’s Executive Director Dr. David Verdugo. In his remarks to the group, Wesley Smith, the executive director of the Association of California School Administrators, underscored the shared goal of fostering “diversity in leadership that represents the diversity in the classroom.”

Former California State Senate Majority leader Richard G. Polanco also addressed the gathered leaders, saying, “The digital divide in communities of color is real.” Polanco encouraged all educators to “support the superintendent” and develop long-term technology plans to present to the state legislature.

After breakfast, the group headed off to Poppy Hill Golf Course for a tournament that benefitted the CALSA Student Scholarship program. In its seventh year of supporting Latino youth in their quest for higher education, the program provided scholarships to 11 recipients representing eight different school districts.

The second day of the Symposium began with the lively online learning exchange (OLE) panel, where CALSA members Dr. Gabe Soumakian, Constantino Aguilar, Dr. Jackie Perez, Dr. Kevin Silberberg, Dr. Rosanna Mucetti, and Dr. Alex Rojas shared their favorite tech tools. Among the apps and websites that earned praise were iResults, Symbaloo, Wolfram Alpha, Pepper, Newsela, Gaggle, Vscope Live, Siembre, and P21.org. True to CALSA tradition, all the presenters ended their time at the microphone by joining the audience in yelling, “Olé!”

Next up was a panel called “How to Market to Underrepresented Educational Leaders” in which four administrators advised vendors on how to approach and collaborate with superintendents and their staffs. The consensus message was “know your audience.” The panelists suggested specific best practices for vendors such as having an educator or former educator on staff to explain how funding cycles work and always being ready to answer the question, “How does your product work in my district?”

The centerpiece of the Symposium were presentations from twenty-two educational technology companies about their products to panels of CALSA members who had to decide whether to adopt them or not. After a day of sessions, the winner was NextLesson, which offers standards‑aligned K‑12 projects and lessons designed to engage students in real-world problem-solving.

“We believe talent is distributed evenly across race, gender, and income levels but opportunities are not," said Dion Lim, Founder and CEO of NextLesson. "This award is a major endorsement of NextLesson and our focus to increase student engagement by making learning personally relevant. We look forward to partnering with CALSA’s leading educators to offer all students authentic exposure to careers, industries, and applied learning.”

Looking back on the weekend, Verdugo said, “I am proud to say that the CALSA Focus on Results Symposium has evolved into an event that is unlike any other in the United States. During this weekend, our CALSA members, superintendents, administrators, and colleagues provided our valued partners with keen insights into how to better serve the K-12 education market, with a special emphasis on our rapidly growing and essential Latino student population.”

CALSA’s next event, the 2016 Summer Institute, will take place at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, CA, from July 18-21.

Christopher Piehler is the former editor-in-chief of THE Journal. He has been an ed tech commentator on both TV and radio, has served as a CODiE award judge, and has been a speaker at the FETC and CoSN conferences.

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