2015 Leaders in Excellence (Individual)
Skyward Communications Team
The Leader in Excellence Award is our way of recognizing individuals who have leveraged Skyward technologies and best practices to make a tangible impact in their districts and communities. We believe that educational technologies should always be focused on results over features, and we congratulate this year's recipients for their ongoing, impactful leadership.
Skyward Communications Team
Without further ado, here are our inaugural individual winners, presented in alphabetical order:
Dr. R.J. Gravel
Director of Instructional Technology
A recent recipient of a doctorate of education in the field of instructional technology from Northern Illinois University, R.J. Gravel can’t be slowed down. In addition to serving as director of instructional technology at Johnsburg School District 12 in Illinois, Dr. Gravel holds leadership positions for curriculum and technology councils across the country, serves on a commission for the State of Illinois supporting the development of state data reporting requirements, and has been asked to present at a number of conferences, including Illinois Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Conference on Learning, Illinois Educational Technology Conference and SMART Technologies Administrative Leadership Summit in Calgary, Canada.
Johnsburg School District 12, Illinois
At Johnsburg School District, Dr. Gravel continuously seeks to develop a better understanding of how Skyward can support instructional and operational activities. In partnership with Skyward, Johnsburg has transitioned from hard copy files to electronic student records, re-prioritized office support personnel responsibilities by collecting parent and student information electronically, and streamlined human resources tasks.
Almost fully transitioned to electronic student records, Johnsburg is one of the few districts that has committed to scanning all existing files. Beginning its data warehouse effort, the school is eliminating the need to "maintain" paper copies that sat in cabinets. This transition has provided the ability for parents to review their student's entire record from any online device twenty-four hours a day, seven day a week, ensuring they have access to their child’s academic information whenever necessary to stay informed.
As an active beta tester for Skyward, Dr. Gravel takes great pride in the development of products to meet the practical needs of districts. Dr. Gravel also shares instructional and marketing materials with neighboring districts, and invites visitors into Johnsburg on a monthly basis.
“We are always happy to advocate how tools can support instruction,” said Dr. Gravel. “Skyward is truly a partner in the educational management and support of our organization.”
In April 2013, a massive explosion erupted in the town of West, Texas, claiming 15 lives, destroying 120 homes and damaging 200 additional houses across 37 blocks. The fertilizer plant blast was earth shattering, registering on seismographs as a 2.1-magnitude earthquake and shaking homes 50 miles away.
West ISD, Texas
Three out of four campuses in the West Independent School District (ISD), along with the majority of the auxiliary and support services facilities were ruined. The network data center burned, completely destroying student, educator and staff history, information and records.
In the aftermath of the disaster, Charles Mikeska, assistant superintendent at West ISD, went into action, taking leadership responsibilities in accounting, maintenance, food service, transportation, facilities and Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS), all the educational data requested and received by the Texas Education Agency. While working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reconstruct the district’s physical infrastructure, Mikeska worked with Skyward to rebuild nearly all of their data in record time.
“Success was in the logistics of providing temporary campuses and getting all the services back up,” said Mikeska. “We could not have survived the data restoration had it not been for Skyward.”
West ISD utilizes every aspect of Skyward’s services, taking advantage of both the Student Suite and Business Suite. Using the software on a daily basis allows the district to be innovative with its operations such as developing a way to use the procurement system to reserve and charge for buses and vehicles. West ISD has also eliminated between eight to 10 software devices in the process of conversion, which saves the district time and money.
“The district is fortunate to have a partnership with a vendor of this high a standard,” said Mikeska. “Skyward is an integral part of West ISD.”
In addition to his administrative leadership at West ISD, Mikeska is involved in Boy Scouts of America and Texas Association of School Business Officials (TASBO). Skyward is proud to honor Charles Mikeska as a Leader in Excellence.
Director of Technology
John Reiels, director of technology at Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wisconsin, is a proud graduate of Nicolet who returned to his alma mater as a technology education teacher in 1987. With a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction from National Louis University and leadership training from the Wisconsin Academy Staff Development Initiative, Reiels has led the development of key technology initiatives that promote student and educator success.
Nicolet High School - Glendale, WI
With experience as a classroom educator, Reiels has a passion for using technology to accelerate learning for every student. Through the effective use of technology, he believes personalized, collaborative and connected learning experiences will drive effective student-teacher engagement, which will improve overall student achievement. Providing access to state-of-the-art technology and information-rich resources will empower every student to be a successful 21st-century learner anytime, anywhere.
Reiels also played an instrumental role in implementing Positive Attendance, a new method of taking and tracking attendance that shows when a student is present, not absent, during the school day. The new attendance functionality from Skyward gives students the flexibility and freedom they need during the school-wide study hall period.
“We owe a lot of our success with Skyward to John,” said Lori Reinhart, administrative assistant to the principal at Nicolet High School. “He has demonstrated innovation with the inception of Positive Attendance for our resource period, which other schools have modeled. He works with Skyward to achieve the results we need.”
Skyward is proud to honor John Reiels as a Leader in Excellence to add to his list of awards and recognitions, including the Wisconsin Technology Education Association’s (WTEA) Program of the Year Award, the WTEA Special Recognition Award for Outstanding Contributions to Technology Education in Wisconsin and the Herb Kohl Foundation Fellowship Award.
Leader in Excellence recipients will be recognized at iCon, the premier event for Skyward users, hosted on March 11-13, 2015 at the TradeWinds Island Resorts in St. Pete Beach, Fla.
Skyward Communications Team