Personnel/Human Resources and Technology Administrators of the Year
Sept. 27, 2017
ACSA is honoring this year’s Administrator of the Year Award recipients, and each is being profiled in EdCal leading up to the formal awards gala at the 2017 Leadership Summit in San Jose.
Looking to the future: Jonathan Blackmore, director of 21st Learning and Special Projects, Covina-Valley USD
In today’s world, technology is at the forefront of everything we do. In education, providing 21st century learning opportunities for students is no longer an added benefit to students, it is a vital component of an education that will prepare students for college and career. Addressing this necessity with passion and commitment is what makes Region 15’s Jonathan Blackmore, director of 21st Learning and Special Projects at Covina-Valley USD, this year’s Technology Administrator of the year.
Ask anyone who knows him, Jonathan Blackmore is no traditional technology administrator. He spent 15 years as high school assistant principal and principal. He credits his successful journey to his current position to early mentorship.
“Early in my career, I was fortunate to work with great leaders who put the needs of students above all else,” Blackmore said. “They showed me that school leaders have a tremendous impact and are able to effect positive change on many levels. My mentors encouraged me to work hard and do great work, but also to look to the future and they inspired me to see the long view.”
Blackmore took their advice to heart, looking far into the future to focus on technological innovations for students. Under his leadership, Covina-Valley has undertaken an ambitious $10 million infrastructure project, replacing all network hardware and software, implementing district-wide wireless access, building a state-of-the-art district data center and implementing a unified communication program.
He has been instrumental in transforming the district into one which runs, literally and figuratively, on technology. He focuses foremost on the inspiration he experiences in his work and his ambitions to lessen the digital divide, saying, “Despite the challenges we face in public education, I believe that we are doing great work and that great minds are looking to the future. While the digital divide still exists, educators are looking at new and innovative ways to use technology to accelerate student learning and to close the achievement gap.
“It is an exciting time to be an educator, and it’s an exciting time to be a student.”
Blackmore and his team implemented a variety of programs designed to foster high levels of achievement by every student. He is currently leading a Digital Modernization initiative in Covina-Valley USD that he believes will act as “rocket-fuel” to accelerate student learning and prepare students for a fast-paced, technologically driven future.
With Blackmore’s help, Covina-Valley has increased graduation rates, enrollment in A-G classes and funded all high-school students taking the PSAT, the SAT and the PSAT 8/9. His ambitions extend to future projects as well.
“I am extremely proud of the students, teachers, and administrators in Covina-Valley USD,” Blackmore said. “They are embracing technology and have open minds about using technology to better the educational experience for all. I am immensely proud of the Technology Support Services team. They have worked extremely hard to bring Covina-Valley into the 21st Century. It’s amazing to see what a smart, committed team can do in a short amount of time.”
In addition to his direct impact on students, Blackmore has also provided leadership on Professional Learning Communities and data integration. He is currently working toward his doctorate in K-12 educational leadership at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education. He completed the ACSA Curriculum and Instruction Academy last year and the ACSA Innovative Technology Academy the year before
Blackmore believes that technology is an integral part of the lives and relationships of both teachers and students. He partnered with Code to the Future to create computer science magnet schools and leads Covina-Valley’s participation in the Code.org Inland Valley Consortium. He has led an initiative to train all Covina-Valley educators to become Google Certified Educators and is an active participant in social media.
Under his leadership, Covina-Valley is on track to be 1:1 with Chromebook technology by the end of the 2018 school year. He is also working with local wireless providers to ensure that families within the community have access to low-cost internet at home.
He credits his superintendent with having the vision to support these projects.
“Superintendent Richard Sheehan leads beyond limits,” Blackmore said. “He is an innovative thinker and leader but always ensures that what we are focused on students learning and teachers teaching. He is not afraid to take risks and challenge our current way of thinking.”
Blackmore will be honored at the upcoming Leadership Summit, the theme of which is “Leading Beyond Limits.”
Blackmore has been an active ACSA member over the years, participating not only in professional development offerings but also as the Covina-Valley Leadership Association membership chair and as the ACSA Region 17 Secondary Council chair, treasurer-elect and treasurer.
“ACSA has done so much for me,” he said. “All of my mentors have been strong advocates for ACSA. I have learned important job skills through ACSA Academies, and most importantly, ACSA has provided me with a network of colleagues, mentors, and friends who will answer any question and always be there for support.”
Thanks to Blackmore, the lofty goals of students are within reach.
Setting a high standard: Sabine Robertson-Phillips, assistant superintendent of human resources, Redlands USD
Known for her high code of ethics, her extensive community involvement and her tireless willingness to create positive change, Sabine Robertson-Phillips, ACSA’s 2017 Personnel/Human Resources Administrator of the Year, has proven to be an outstanding asset to Redlands USD’s senior management team.
She began working at Redlands USD as a teacher, moving through the ranks to assistant principal and coordinator of human resources before her promotion to assistant superintendent of human resources in 2007. Her desire to work in education stretches back to fifth grade.
“I was inspired to become an administrator because of my principal,” Robertson-Phillips said. “She was an African American female in the late 1970’s in a predominately White community. As my sister and I were two of only three or four African American students at the whole school, you can image that this principal was an incredible inspiration to us.
“I saw in her who I wanted to be when I grew up. Given the fact that I was sent to her office by my teachers quite often – I wasn’t exactly a teacher pleaser – I know she would be surprised and proud to learn that I have become an educator and that she was my inspiration.”
Teacher pleaser or not, Robertson-Phillips has certainly pleased her colleagues at Redlands USD.
She “is a pivotal member of our executive management team,” said Redlands USD Superintendent Lori Rhodes. She calls Robertson-Phillips a “leader among leaders,” and continues, “Under her watch, the (HR) Department implemented a new teacher hiring process that has made a positive difference in the quality of new teachers we bring into RUSD and has positively impacted instruction.”
The program made such a constructive impact, it was selected to be presented at CSBA’s 2015 statewide conference as a model hiring process. This is just one in an impressive list of Robertson-Phillips’ accomplishments in her years at Redlands USD. Others include working collaboratively to form the RUSD/UofR Language Speech and Hearing partnership; co-chairing the Redlands USD Future Ready workgroup to develop the district’s leading-edge Instructional Technology Department; structuring management team trainings to ensure the highest codes of ethics are maintained; and integrating the CSTP into Redlands USD evaluation systems, all in addition to the daily work of earning the trust and respect of all district staff.
“I am most proud that as a division, we have successfully revamped our teacher hiring process,” Robertson-Phillips said of her accomplishments. “Moving from a single 20-minute interview to a multiple step process that spans two days – including a PLC activity, a writing activity, and two interviews – is such an accomplishment.”
As for the future, she continues to work to create impactful change for the students she serves. “I hope to stay involved in continued efforts to collaborate with the universities in the Inland Empire to recruit high school students in our local area high schools,” she said. “It is my hope that these students will stay in the local area after college and give their talents back to our communities.”
Robertson-Phillips credits ACSA with being “a support throughout my career,” especially in her current position, “Whether it has been workshops, trainings, newsletters or advocacy.”
“I am fortunate to teach in the ACSA Principals Academy, which has been a huge growth opportunity for me,” she continued. “It has allowed me to network with current and future administrators and to become a mentor to administrators who have come through the academy.
“I truly appreciate all that ACSA does on behalf of school administrators. I have been inspired by so many people I have worked with throughout my education journey. The common thread that is woven through each person is their belief that creativity, high expectations, out-of-the-box thinking, and dreaming are limitless.
“I have been mentored by creative leaders who believe in keeping students at the focus of all decisions and finding ways to make meaningful change happen.”
The theme of the 2017 Leadership Summit is Leading Beyond Limits, something Robertson-Phillips can certainly speak to.
“I believe that we redefine what is possible by refusing to accept status quo,” she said. “We lead beyond limits because while we accept that limits exist, we surround ourselves with educators who see beyond the limits – and we do not let the limits define us or the impact we want our organization to have on students and the communities we serve.
“I keep these thoughts at the forefront of all I do.”
All ACSA Administrators of the Year will be honored at the President’s Gala and Awards Celebration during Leadership Summit in San Jose, Nov. 3. To register, go to www.acsa.org/leadershipsummit.