Benjamin Franklin once said that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest. An education offers knowledge, structure and an internal resource for the future of every student. This being irrespective of how proficient—or unproficient for that matter—the student is, as it was Einstein who stated that, “education is what remains when one has forgotten everything.” Over several civilizations, cultures and institutions, the American epithet for quality education was distilled in the still pots of experience and brewed to perfection, to yield what we all know and address today, as K12. Keeping in mind the enormous importance of the social component that is education, we at Education Tech Insights are proud to present our Top 10 Innovative School District Tech Directors, to shed some light on the greatest and latest in school curriculum, practise and innovation. Each of the following have been shortlisted by our panel of researchers, educators and professionals in EdTech, for their pioneering work toward the advancement of the quality and execution of the ideals of education today. Education Tech Insights believes that these are individuals, who constantly strive to push the envelope of possibilities in schools, to make for more effective teaching, and understanding, for the benefit of tomorrow’s citizen, i.e. the student. Whether it is meeting the social and emotional needs of all students, or recruiting and retaining teachers, these are all relevant challenges that our featured directors have delved into headfirst. Let us get to know them a little better:
Dr. Themistocles Sparangis
1. Dr. Themistocles Sparangis, Senior Director, Information Technology, Los Angeles Unified School District
Dr. Themistocles (Themy) Sparangis is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education. Dr. Sparangis obtained his Bachelor of Arts in General Physics from the University of California, Los Angeles, a Master of Science in Teacher Education and a Doctorate of Education from the University of Southern California, specializing in International Education. He is a credentialed Teacher in Secondary Physical Science, having taught Advanced Placement Physics, Physics, and Physical Science in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He also holds an Administrative Credential issued by the State of California. He is also a member of Phi Delta Kappa (PDK), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and Computer Using Educators (CUE), The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) the National Association for Media Literacy in Education (NAMLE), EdLeader21, and the International Council for Online Learning (iNACOL). Currently, Dr. Sparangis is responsible for IT Customer Services for the Los Angeles Unified School District and reports directly to the Chief Information Officer. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the largest (in terms of number of students) public school system in the U.S. state of California and the 2nd largest public school district in the United States. He is also an adjunct assistant professor for the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education. His work at the IT Customer Services Group helps provides for the repair and maintenance of local area networks, voice and radio communications systems, security systems, computing devices and associated software, and IT help desk services for the schools and office in the District.
2. Larry Plank, Director, K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics Education, Hillsborough County Public Schools
Larry R. Plank, Ed.S., is the Director of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education for Hillsborough County Public Schools, in Tampa, FL, the 8th largest school district in the United States.
Mr. Plank began his post-secondary education at Michigan State University, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Florida State University in 1997, and Master’s (Biological Sciences) and Specialist’s degrees (Educational Leadership) from the University of South Florida in 2000 and 2006, respectively. He currently chairs the Professional Development Committee of the National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA), co-chairs the Tampa Bay Technology Forum TechStart Board of Directors. Mr. Plank’s most recent work with the Florida Department of Education is focused upon the adoption of new state standards for K-12 science and developing the next generation of science assessments. In addition, Mr. Plank currently directs 11 STEM-related educational projects in Tampa Bay area, with current and past funding from the National Science Foundation, NASA, NOAA, the Florida Department of Education and the Helios Education Foundation, totaling over $17 million. The most recent Math/Science Partnership award of $4.3 million will focus upon integrative lesson development and associated professional development for K-12 STEM teachers. Mr. Plank was nationally recognized in 2014 as one the Top 30 Technologists, Transformers and Trailblazers by the Center for Digital Education. Most recently in 2015, the USF College of Education recognized Mr. Plank as the college’s Partner of the Year, and he received a similar award from the Hillsborough Education Foundation in 2013 for working with partners in the Tampa Bay community.