2016 Innovation in Education Special Awards Announced

Posted in: CFF News

On May 25, 2016, the Classroom of the Future Foundation (CFF) will hold its 13th annual Innovation in Education Awards at the University of San Diego. This event brings together more than 500 educators and business leaders to highlight champions of educational innovation in the community, as well as exceptional students pursuing careers in STEM education.

CFF is excited to announce its 2016 Special Award winners for this year’s Innovation in Education Awards:

  • Visionary and Outstanding Leadership Award: Dr. Randolph E. Ward, Superintendent of Schools, San Diego County Office of Education
  • Innovative Superintendent Award: Dr. Jeffrey Felix, Superintendent, Coronado USD
  • Innovative Principal Award: Laura Smith, Casita Elementary School, Vista USD
  • Innovative Educator Award: Dr. Laura Spencer, Director, Educational Technology, Lakeside UESD

These individuals exemplify the mission of CFF and are truly making a difference in the lives of students. Join us in honoring them today.

Congratulations to our award winners!

Visionary and Outstanding Leadership AwardDr. Randolph E. Ward, Superintendent of Schools, San Diego County Office of EducationDr. Ward

Dr. Randolph E. Ward was hired as San Diego County Superintendent of Schools in June 2006. As County Superintendent, he presides over the support infrastructure for 42 school districts serving nearly 500,000 students. Dr. Ward also directly oversees the County’s Juvenile Court and Community Schools, which provide education to youth who are either wards of the court, or have been referred by social services, probation, or a local school district. He was previously the state-appointed administrator of the Oakland Unified School District. Under his leadership, student test scores in Oakland increased significantly, drop-out rates declined, and he was credited with closing a multi-million dollar budget shortfall. Prior to his tenure in Oakland, Dr. Ward was the state-appointed administrator in the Compton Unified School District, where he was credited with restoring fiscal and academic solvency. Under his tenure, Compton student test scores increased five consecutive years. Ward’s education career began in 1979, as a preschool teacher in his hometown of Boston. Fluent in Spanish and English, he has also taught in Colombia and Venezuela. He has a B.S. from Tufts University in Early Childhood Education and Mental Health, a Masters in School Leadership from Harvard and another in Educational Administration from the University of Massachusetts. He has an Ed.D. in Policy, Planning and Administration from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. He is married and has two children, a boy and a girl.

Innovative Superintendent AwardDr. Jeffrey Felix, Superintendent, Coronado USD


Dr. Felix has enjoyed being an educator for 30 years and a superintendent in California for the past 20 years. Jeff was named the 2004 and 2013 Superintendent of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators in San Diego and Imperial counties.  After serving as superintendent for both the San Pasqual Union and the Bonsall Union School District, Dr. Felix was chosen to lead the Coronado Unified School District as superintendent in 2008.

Dr. Felix earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Northern Arizona University in 1975 and a Master of Science degree in Computers and Education from National University in 1987. He earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of California San Diego in 2007. His research on edublogging represents the first study on the use of blogging as an instructional practice. His study was published in several publications including Talking Points, a journal of the National Council for Teachers of English. His interest continues to be creating better learning opportunities for the Digital Age child and implementing 21st century teaching and learning in all classrooms.

He is currently serving on the Achievement Gap Task Force Committee, Executive Board for the Classroom of the Future Foundation, Chairman of the Superintendents’ Roundtable ACSA Region 18, and Chairman of the San Diego CIF Board of Managers. Jeff has also served as an advisor for the School of Education at National University and the Think Tank created by Bill Gates called “bgC3.”  He is considered an expert in 1:1 computer implementation, BYOD, OER, and creating cultural change for the Digital Age.

Jeff has lived in Escondido most of his life and has been married for 40 years to his wife Debbie. Debbie is the Executive Assistant to the Principal of the Classical Academy Charter High School in Escondido.  Together they have raised two daughters and now have five grandchildren. He spends his leisure time playing golf and tennis.

Innovative Principal AwardLaura Smith, Casita Elementary School, Vista USDLaura Smith

Laura Smith has been Principal of Casita Center for the past seven years. Casita Center is an IBPYP Candidate and STEM magnet school drawing accolades for its strong performance on new state standardized tests, a feat that’s especially impressive because more than 60 percent of the school’s students are low-income and more than 40 percent are English language learners.

Mrs. Smith has worked in the Vista Unified School District for the past 26 years.  Her teaching career began during Roosevelt Middle School’s third year expansion to eighth grade.  During this time, she received theVH1 Good News People Award for her work with students in creating Public Service Announcements about bias awareness.  In 1994, she became a member of the founding faculty at Madison Middle School.  Mrs.Smith co-wrote the California Distinguished School Award and the National Blue Ribbon Award, both received. During her tenure at Madison, she was recognized as the VUSD Middle School Golden Apple Teacher. She was nominated for the California League of Middle Schools Educator of the Year and received the Superior Court of the State of California Ralph N. Kelps Award for her work in writing a Youth and Court simulation.  In 2007, Laura served as Vista Magnet Middle School’s founding Curriculum Coordinator and helped launch their successful IBMYP and STEM programs.  In 2008, Laura became an Assistant Principal at Casita Center and in 2009 became the Principal.

Currently, Mrs. Smith is involved with the NGSS Early Implementers Grant. She is working with educators from 8 districts and 2 charters to build a model K-8 NGSS implementation plan for other LEAs statewide and nationally with support from West Ed and K-12 Alliance.

Laura received her Masters in Educational Leadership and Administrative Credential from Point Loma Nazarene University.  She graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a Single Subject Social Science Credential and a BA in Political Science. She also holds a Multiple Subjects Credential. Laura is an empty nester who resides in Carlsbad with her husband, a fellow educator.

Innovative Educator Award: Dr. Laura Spencer, Director, Educational Technology, Laura SpencerLakeside UESD

Dr. Laura Spencer has been the Director of Educational Technology for the Lakeside Union School District for the past two years. As an award-winning educator and administrator, Laura is committee to ensuring that technology is used as a tool to engage and educate students in authentic experiences that prepare them for their future.

During her tenure as a classroom teacher, Laura participated in Project LemonLink, a project focused on high-speed internet connectivity, equity, and 1:1 access to thin-client tablets so middle school students could have equitable access to quality digital instructional resources. During this time she was awarded a Microsoft Innovative Educator award, as well as chosen as a “Best of NECC” presenter for the National Educational Computing Conference (now ISTE).

As a district administrator, Laura oversees the implementation of technology-integrated instructional programs, the development of professional development to ensure the ongoing implementation of high standards of instructional practice, and the technical infrastructure to make sure those programs are a success. Her work has resulted in two Classroom of the Future Foundation school awards, and an Administrator of the Year award from the American Heart Association.

Her impact expands beyond her district, as she also serves as the First Vice President of SDCUE, the San Diego affiliate of CUE (Computer Using Educators). In this role, she has worked to provide grants and awards for deserving educators throughout the county. She also has taught college classes for CSU San Marcos, Brandman University, and University of Phoenix.

In addition, she has presented at both local and national conferences, including SDCUE Tech Fest, CUE Annual Conference, CUE Rock Star, ASCD, and ISTE. Laura received her Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Administration from Alliant International University. She also holds two Master’s degrees from National University, one in Educational Administration and one in Teaching with a focus on Reading.  She graduated from State University of New York Potsdam with a Single Subject English Language Arts Credential and a BA in English Literature and Writing. She is raising two daughters, ages 17 and 13.

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