- Expertise: Technology Management
- Position: Director of Technology
- District: Vail School District, Ariz.
When principals in the Vail district near Tucson, Ariz., immediately send feedback to the teachers they’ve just observed, that’s because of Mark Breen.
When the district is easily able to give a teacher extra cash for the gardening club they’ve started sponsoring, that’s also largely thanks to Breen.
And when the district was able to unite around a single online portal to help teachers share student progress with their parents, that was also thanks to Breen.
Breen, the technology director for the 12,000-student school district, is the one behind the scenes doing the out-of-sight, out-of-mind, but crucial tasks that help educators better serve students, in addition to championing the district’s computer science programming.
Lessons from the Leader
- Focus on relationships. Learn how to effectively communicate, actively listen, and treat people how they want to be treated. Meaningful work can only happen on the foundation of authentic relationships.
- Take risks and embrace change. Surround yourself with people who push you to take risks, let you fail, and learn lessons. Change is beautiful and scary—creative innovation requires it.
- Know your values. Internalize and reflect on your personal values and those of the organization. Point to those value sets when making decisions.
He’s part of a breed of school district leaders who are rarely in the limelight, but without whom district operations would at best be chaotic—and at worst screech to a halt.
“Getting into the weeds of how those processes work, that’s kind of the only way to figure out how to make it better,” says Breen.
District officials who work with Breen have a good metaphor to describe his work: That of a conductor, the person who makes sure all the instruments in the orchestra play together in harmony.
That’s no coincidence. Breen began his career as a band leader, came to the district to teach band part-time, and then embraced the role of technology specialist and director. He has found surprising connections between the academic and technical sides of his job.
Mark Breen is one of two honorees from Education Week’s 2020 Leaders To Learn From who will receive early recognition. Read the complete profile—and learn about the full class of leading-edge school district leaders—in February.