Texas, Utah School District Leaders Recognized for EmpowerED Digital Superintendent Award at AASA’s National Conference on Education



James Minichello


Nashville, Tenn. – Feb. 18, 2022 AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is pleased to congratulate Michael Hinojosa (Dallas Independent School District) and Jeff Stephens (Weber School District) as recipients of the 2021 EmpowerED Digital Superintendent of the Year award. The award was presented on behalf of AASA, as well as CoSN, the Consortium for School Networking, at the 2022 National Conference on Education.  

The EmpowerED Digital Superintendent of the Year Award, sponsored by ClassLink, is given annually to a district leader that has championed the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning. As superintendents across the country continue to navigate massive shifts in the education landscape due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CoSN and AASA are celebrating two impressive leaders. 

In Texas, Hinojosa helped mastermind Operation Connectivity, which has expanded access to digital learning across the state by connecting more than half a million students to the internet. He has spent years fostering equity in Dallas schools by championing a two-way dual language program, ACE program and tech-focused career institute.

“No significant accomplishment is the effort of a single individual. That's certainly the case with Operation Connectivity and the technology advances that Dallas ISD has achieved during the pandemic,” said Hinojosa.   

Meanwhile, in Utah, Stephens created a technology commission made up of key stakeholders to plan and implement a five-year technology roadmap for WSD. Not only has he assisted the district’s equity department in getting students that lack at-home internet access online, but he has gone a step further to establish a technology advocate role that directly assists these students and their parents with the digital transition.   

“More than anything, this award is a great chance to recognize our technology department and the amazing teachers who have worked tirelessly throughout the year to digitize instructional services for children,” said Stephens.  

“The cultural tipping point caused by the global pandemic and economic downturn has forced superintendents to be bold in their efforts to find winning solutions that will effectively address the needs of the students they serve. Superintendents Michael Hinojosa and Jeff Stephens have responded and continue to excel in building dynamic digital learning environments on behalf of their school districts,” said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA. “We congratulate these champions for children for the outstanding work they do in creating positive cultures of learning in their respective communities.”   

“Over the past year, superintendents across the United States have played an even more critical role in establishing successful digital learning environments. We are honored to recognize and award Superintendents Hinojosa and Stephens for their important accomplishments,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN, who noted this announcement at NCE concludes a year of recognition. “Learning in their districts and states would not be what it is today without their support and commitment to advancing education technology.”  

AASA and CoSN launched a partnership in 2019, committed to building a community of engaged superintendents and other school system leaders who have the skills and knowledge to bolster dynamic digital learning environments on behalf of K-12 students. Together, they created the EmpowerED Superintendents Toolkit, an online portal to provide district leaders with rich information to help enhance their skill areas, tools and action steps. In addition, both organizations continue to provide resources on a wide variety of critical technological issues such as cybersecurity, student data privacy, cloud computing and more, which can be accessed at https://www.cosn.org/superintendents or by contacting Valerie Truesdale, AASA assistant executive director, leadership development, at vtruesdale@aasa.org.   

For more information about the conference, access AASA’s Conference Daily Online.


About AASA 
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to equitable access for all students to the highest quality public education. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.     

About CoSN  
CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking) is the premier professional association for school system technology leaders. CoSN provides thought leadership resources, community best practices and advocacy tools to help leaders succeed in the digital transformation. CoSN represents over 13 million students in school districts nationwide and continues to grow as a powerful and influential voice in K-12 education.