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Barrow superintendent earns tech savvy award

WINDER - Ron Saunders, superintendent of Barrow County schools, accepted awards for Georgia Superintendent of the Year and Tech Savvy Superintendent on Thursday in Tampa.

Saunders was named Tech Savvy Superintendent by eSchool News as one of the nation's top-10 K-12 executives.

Saunders was selected for the honor because of his work to use technology to streamline many communication processes in the school system, said Gregg W. Downey, publisher of eSchool News.

"He centralized the student registration process to better support multiple languages and installed language-line phone systems at each school to provide all school administrators with expert interpreters at a moment's notice," Downey said.

More than 40 languages are spoken by Barrow County students.

Saunders' "Break the Bandwidth Barrier" campaign brought to Barrow County students an advanced cyber infrastructure, provided access to educational resources, mentors, experts, interactive activities, and virtual learning environments, Downey said.

"Through a partnership with the Georgia Board of Regents, he established Barrow as the only school district in the state with access to Georgia's research and education network," Downey said.

That network is comprised of the University of Georgia, Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State University.

School Board members recently approved a contract with Windstream to provide wide-area cabling for the entire school system.

Saunders, an educator for 37 years, calls himself a stickler for communication.

"The BlackBerry is my favorite," he said. "They call me the crackberry. I answer e-mails and phone calls because if they go unanswered, people get things in their minds about what's going on. Every one of my principals and staff members have a BlackBerry, as well."

The laptop is Saunders' second-favorite communication tool.

"I can take it anywhere and go over things," he said. "I don't have a blog but I am learning about wiki instruction. I have tried to provide the district with a cutting-edge type of technology. The Direct to Discovery program goes into the classrooms and helps kids see the world of science, math and technology."

A Palm Pilot allows Saunders to keep track of every Barrow County student.

"Every student's record are in my Palm Pilot, so I can tell if they are absent or not, their schedules, who to call in case of an emergency," he said.

His inspiration came from one of the most influential women in his life.

"The reason I got interested in technology was my mother," Saunders said. "She was already a retired school teacher but she went on to learn the computer and she demonstrated to me you are not too old to learn about technology. She just turned 84 and is still going strong."