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Marie Izquierdo

While some may fear and avoid change, Marie Izquierdo thrives on it. As chief academic officer with the Office of Academics and Transformation for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, she has made huge strides in education technology for one of the largest school districts in the country.

When Izquierdo was Miami-Dade’s assistant superintendent for academics, she led key projects aligned with the national Common Core State Standards Initiative to stay ahead of the curve with student learning and progress monitoring. She successfully boosted student achievement and retention levels in some of Florida’s lowest performing schools and played a key role in obtaining a $1.2 billion general obligation bond to purchase technology and renovate facilities throughout Miami-Dade County Public Schools. As a result of her progressive leadership, the district was awarded the Broad Prize in Urban Education in 2012.

With more than 350,000 students and 53,000 teachers, implementing any academic change for the fourth-largest school district in the nation requires tremendous collaboration and vision. Izquierdo has achieved both as chief academic officer. She is keenly focused on creating learning environments for the 21st-century student. She has leveraged key partnerships with major organizations, including NBC Learn, Discovery Education and Promethean, to bring cutting-edge technology to classrooms, including interactive whiteboards and a new software program called ClassFlow, a learning management system that supports progress monitoring and teacher-student engagement.

For Izquierdo, staying on the cutting-edge means having the courage to do things differently. The school system’s CIO reports directly to her to encourage synchronicity across the district. “Typically you have a CIO that is not familiar with issues that come up in academics. This makes it organic because the CIO is embedded in those conversations and it gives them a different perspective and capacity in that world,” she said. “That has made an ecosystem that is very student-centric, where the primary focus is student achievement and supporting students in the classroom.”

Looking ahead, Izquierdo will continue to drive innovations across her district, including the rollout of 30,000 laptops and tablets for sixth- and 11th-graders. “We really need to focus on developing the 21st-century skill sets that kids will need,” she said. “If we do that right, kids will have the skills to be successful in any endeavor they come across as an adult.” —Julia McCandless