John L. White, Ed.D.
Principal, William Mulholland Middle School
Los Angeles Unified School District
Although he was determined to pursue a business career when he graduated from college, John White spent too many years playing football for the UCLA Bruins to leave the game behind completely. So even while he was working his day job, John connected with a local high school and began coaching football. It wasn’t long before his avocation became more interesting than his real work, and when he was offered a full-time position teaching English and coaching, he jumped at the chance. Twenty-seven years later, in his current job as principal of a large, urban, and diverse middle school with over 1800 students, he has no regrets about the path he chose. “One of my favorite uncles was a teacher,” he recalls, “and I remember the great stories he told about the kids in his classroom. Now I understand why he loved his job so much.”
John’s exposure to technology began thirty-three years ago when he shopped for a computer for his son. “As a Boy Scout, I was always making crystal radios and gadgets,” he remembers. “When I wanted to pass my interest in science on to my kids, a computer was a natural first step.” As the principal of Mulholland Middle School since 1998, he has had a pivotal role in transforming the school’s use of computers to further student learning. “We’ve demystified technology and we’re past the ‘wow’ stage,” he explains. “Now our teachers see technology as a tool like an overhead or chalkboard; it’s a seamless part of their teaching portfolio.” Mulholland’s upward rising test scores have helped to fuel the teachers’ belief in the efficacy of using technology in the classroom, as the school’s API has risen by over 200 points since 2000.
John has been resourceful in setting aside categorical funds to enable the school to purchase key strategic software and hardware that have helped students to master California state standards. For example, Mulholland uses a writing program called My Access© from Vantage Learning, which automatically grades student writing for the writing elements specified by the teacher, such as spelling, or mechanics, and includes customized reports that display the students’ progress against standards. Another valuable tool is Study Island, a self-paced software program that reinforces teacher instruction by allowing students to practice key standards through multiple learning styles and to gauge their progress toward mastery. These learning tools, along with other software, are utilized through flexible, mobile hardware solutions, including 25 mobile laptop labs which rotate throughout the school.
However, like most seasoned educators, John knows that all the fancy technology in the world won’t make a difference unless teachers feel comfortable using it in the classroom. Towards this goal, his school provides two-week technology training sessions each summer, where teachers plan for integrating the technology with their curriculum. This investment has paid off, as 80 percent of the school’s teachers have their own web pages (designed using a standard template), where they post homework assignments and other information students need to stay on top of classroom learning activities.
Principal White also practices what he preaches when it comes to technology. He regularly uses computational software, such as Microsoft Excel© to mine student data, determine trends, and address achievement gaps. He is proud that his school’s efforts have helped not only its mainstream students, but its large special education population as well. In fact, some of the special education students have become so proficient at the multimedia programs that they have been able to effectively “tutor” the GATE students in this technology.
When John is not at his school, he can be found playing with his grandchildren, vacationing in Cancun, and, during the fall months, avidly following his favorite football team (you guessed it), the UCLA Bruins.