One District’s Innovative Way to Navigate All That Innovation

In my role working to bring EverFi’s programs to schools, I have the opportunity to work with dozens of districts large and small. Virtually every administrator I speak with voices ambivalence about the innovation available to them today: while the myriad of new technological resources pose exciting opportunities for educators and students, they also force a dizzying array of considerations and decisions. Anahein image

Districts deal with decisions regarding which innovative tools to deploy , and how best to do so, in a variety of ways: some create committees, others distribute decision-making to the school sites, still others house the process in subject-area departments. With countless other decisions to be made in running a school, department or district, the staff faced with these decisions aren’t always able to make innovation their first priority.

One of EverFi’s partner-districts has developed a unique structure, and seems to be reaping rewards as a result: Anaheim Union High School District, a large, diverse district in Southern California (Anaheim being far more than Disneyland and conventions), employs a Director of Innovative Programs – a title I’ve seen nowhere else! One person in AUHSD , the Director, Dr. Diane Donnelly-Toscano , is charged with maintaining a keen awareness of the district’s needs, considering the many new, exciting programs available, recruiting input and perspective from both the central office and the schools themselves, and determining how best to deploy the selected programs.

This structure surely isn’t without its bureaucratic snags, but from my perspective, it works with nearly unique efficiency. It helps that Diane maintains a solid awareness of the ed tech world, and is an efficient decision-maker, and a compelling communicator, able to assess and build interest effectively. But her role, and its position in the district, enables Diane to make use of those skills. Reporting to the Superintendent, she is solely charged with ensuring that AUHSD remains at the forefront of education innovation.

anaheim HSClearly we’re big fans of Diane and Anaheim schools , and we’re proud to say that she’s a fan of ours and that Anaheim is one of the biggest districts in the country using EverFi. In determining whether and how to work with EverFi, Diane was no dictator; she gathered opinions and built consensus. But that process appeared smooth and efficient, and has led to near-seamless implementation and solid growth of our programs.

The value of this structure (and Diane herself) extends well beyond EverFi: Anaheim has earned a reputation for its leading-edge offerings, as thousands of students every year complete a Career and Technical Education “Pathway” program, while over a thousand others participate in an innovative e-learning program.

School districts are saddled with challenges that few of us can begin to fathom; they also face opportunities that we in the ed tech world believe are going to change the very nature of education. It’s exciting to see districts like Anaheim, and committed leaders like Diane, making the most of this exciting time.