Meet the Authors

Ira David Socol is the Chief Technology and Innovation Officer for Albemarle County Public Schools. Over his eight years working with this public school system he has been involved in the radical shifts in technology use, space design, and pedagogy that have helped make these schools among the nation’s most studied, and most honored. Coming to educational leadership from a highly diverse career background – art, architecture, the NYPD, special education  – Socol has helped to bring new ways of seeing and understanding school environments to Albemarle County, and through prolific social media use, to global education. A 2017 winner of the Center for Digital Education’s “Top 30” award for those transforming schools, he has spoken to groups around the world, and his ‘Toolbelt Theory’ of student technology choice has changed how many children learn to use contemporary tools.

Where to find Ira:  Twitter|Medium|LinkedIn|Website: SpeEd Change

Dr. Pamela R. Moran has served as the Superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools since January 2006. She oversees a division with an annual operating budget of $180.5 million; a self-sustaining budget of $19.2 million and a five-year capital budget of $86.9 million.  The division includes more than 1,200 teachers educating 13,700 students in 25 schools.

During Pam’s tenure, Albemarle County Public Schools has become one of the top performing school divisions for students in the state with an on-time graduation rate of 95 percent.  Two out of every three high school seniors graduate with an Advanced Studies Diploma, 30 percent higher than the state average for all school divisions.  In 2014, Albemarle County students had the second highest SAT scores among 133 school divisions in Virginia in critical reading and the third highest SAT scores for writing and math.

In 2015, a national survey organization ranked Albemarle County Public Schools in the top five of all school divisions in Virginia and among the top two percent of all school divisions in the county.

Among the school division’s flagship programs are its Learning Commons, AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) and M-Cubed. Both the Learning Commons and M-Cubed have received the National School Board Association’s Magna Award, given annually to the school division in the nation with the most innovative and effective program.  The school division is the only one in the history of the Magna Award to twice receive the association’s highest performance honor.  The school’s Learning Commons, which is a multi-disciplined, technology-infused learning center, has attracted visits by MIT, Harvard, the Universities of Virginia and North Carolina and from the Smithsonian Museum and the New York Hall of Science.  M-Cubed is a program that supports black middle school males in year-round advanced math studies to improve their high school academic performance. The division’s Jack Jouett Middle School is in the top three percent of all schools in the world for the success of its AVID college and career readiness program.

A key component of the division’s project-based instructional model is its maker curriculum, which has been the subject of presentations by division educators around the country, including at the White House.  In 2015, in partnership with two other school divisions and the University of Virginia, Albemarle County Public Schools was one of three public school divisions in the nation to receive an Investing in Innovation demonstration grant.  The $3.4 million federal grant is being used to develop advanced manufacturing and engineering programs in division middle schools and is in addition to a $20,000 state planning grant to develop a “school-of-the-future” model.

The division has three centers of excellence.  Students in the Math, Engineering and Science Academy earn an average of $24,000 per student in academic scholarships; the Health and Medical Sciences Academy became a Governor’s Regional Health Academy in 2013 and in 2015, a new Environmental Studies Academy began operations.

The division also is home to one of the first CoderDojo Academies in a public school division in the country, teaching computer coding and science skills to students.  Other notable new programs include a high school Arts & Letters Pathway and a summer Fine Arts Academy.

Pam is a leading advocate of an educational model that prepares students for “success in their century, not mine.”  She emphasizes the value of student-led research, project-based learning and contemporary learning spaces that promote collaboration, creativity, analytical problem-solving, critical thinking, and communications competencies among all students.

A past gubernatorial appointee to the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia, Pam was selected by her peers across the Commonwealth as Virginia’s 2016 Superintendent of the Year.  She subsequently was one of four statewide superintendents of the year to be selected as a finalist for 2016 National Superintendent of the Year.

In 2016, Pam was selected to serve on the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development.

She is a member of the MakerEdorg advisory committee and has delivered several TED Talks on the impact of creating a contemporary learning environment for students, one shaped around a student-centered project-based instructional model.   Under her guidance, Albemarle County Public Schools was selected in 2015 for membership in the League of Innovative Schools., a nonprofit organization authorized by the U.S. Congress to accelerate innovation in education.

Pam has appeared on the cover of Education Week’s Digital Directions magazine as a “National Mover and Shaker” for her advocacy of a curricular digital integration model, which will be featured in an upcoming profile by Edutopia.  She also was selected by eSchool Media as one of its national Tech-Savvy Superintendents of the Year and under her leadership, the school division received the Virginia Governor’s Tech Innovation Award.

Pam is a past President of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, Women Educational Leaders of Virginia and the Virginia Association of Science Supervisors.  She holds leadership positions with the regional Chamber of Commerce, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Public Education Fund, and the University of Virginia-Public Schools Educational Partnership.

Pam’s career in public education began as a high school science teacher.  She subsequently served as a central office science coordinator and staff developer, elementary school principal, director of instruction, assistant superintendent for instruction, and adjunct instructor in educational leadership for the University of Virginia’s Curry School and the School of Continuing Education. She holds a B.S. in Biology from Furman University and Master’s and Doctoral degrees from the University of Virginia.  Pam also is an alumnus of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Executive Educators Leadership Institute.

Where to find Pam: Twitter|Medium|LinkedIn|Website: A Space for Learning

Chad RatliffChad S. Ratliff is Principal of two progressive public lab schools in the Albemarle County Public Schools district, Murray High and Community Middle.  Both schools are designed to provide students with more agency, control, and influence over their education in order to foster intellectual curiosity, social-emotional development, and community impact through inquiry and the arts. He is responsible for the research, development, and implementation of programs that align with the school district’s strategic focus on student-centered learning. Research partners include MIT Teaching Systems Lab, U.Va. Curry School of Education, Princeton, Creativity Labs @ Indiana University, Maker Education Initiative, and Smithsonian.

In 2017, the National School Boards Association named Chad one of the “20 to Watch” educational leaders in the country. He was invited to several education-focused White House events during the Obama administration and has been called to testify before the Virginia General Assembly.  He has appeared before such organizations as the American Association of School Superintendents, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the National School Boards Association, and at World Maker Faire. He has been an internal workshop presenter at U.S.DOE and National Science Foundation. He was the keynote speaker at James Madison University’s annual Teaching and Learning with Technology Conference and the National Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education annual conference in 2016.

In 2015, Chad was appointed by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to the Council for Youth Entrepreneurship. Between 2009-2015, he was a Virginia Board of Education appointee to the State Advisory Committee for Career and Technical Education and has served as the Board Chair for the Virginia Career Education Foundation. In 2013, he was the facilitator for the High School of the Future Startup event for Governor Bob McDonnell’s STEM Summit.  Chad was named one the the “Top Leaders Under 40” by C-Ville Weekly and “Top 20 Under 40” by the Roanoke Times Blue Ridge Business Journal.  As a classroom teacher and coach for Martinsville City Public Schools, he was honored with the student-selected “Most Influential Educator” award three times and received “Wrestling Coach of the Year” honors seven times.

Also an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship and founder, Chad is active in the entrepreneurial community and has organized several Startup Weekend events. He holds an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia and an M.B.A. from Virginia Tech. He is an alumnus of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Executive Educators Leadership Institute. He resides in Charlottesville, Virginia with his wife and their two children.

Where to find Chad: Twitter|Medium|LinkedIn|Website: Venture Pragmatist