The “Technology Dream Team” is going to be down a member starting in July.
For about a decade, Lissa Pijanowski has worked with Forsyth County Schools as the system continued to grow, both in size and offerings.
When Pijanowski, the system’s associate superintendent, leaves her post June 30 for the private sector, her absence will be felt.
“I’m going to miss her,” said Jill Hobson, the district’s director of instructional technology. “She’s brought a tremendous amount of leadership and she works harder than any woman I know.
“She’s often up way early in the morning and awake way into the evening getting things done.”
Hobson, along with Pijanowski, Mike Evans, Sue Derison, Buster Evans, Bailey Mitchell and Mark Klingler make up the technological team, using various initiatives to bring technology to classrooms.
Under Pijanowski’s watch, the school system has implemented Bring Your Own Technology, the ANGEL learning management system and other initiatives to transition toward technology and away from the traditional, print-based tools.
She’s also worked on several initiatives, including IE2, i3 and the iAchieve Virtual Academy.
“If it had an i-something in it, Lissa’s been right there in the middle of it,” said Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Buster Evans. “I think her work will continue to be observed in our system and we are a better place because she’s been a key part of our work here in Forsyth County.
“I truly have enjoyed working with Lissa.”
IE2, or Investing in Educational Excellence, was a huge step for the county, Evans said.
The program gives the school system flexibility from state mandates in exchange for increased accountability. The plan has been a successful one for the county, Evans said, as has the i3, or Investing in Innovation grant.
The $4.7 million grant, the system’s largest to date, is being used for Engage ME P.L.E.A.S.E., short for Personalized Learning Experiences Accelerate Standards-based Education.
The effort allows teachers to deliver lessons, tests and suggest activities individual to each student.
“All of those are things that a typical school district might not embark on if they didn’t have the kind of community support that we have in Forsyth,” Pijanowski said.
In addition to community support, Pijanowski said her co-workers have made it a difficult decision to leave.
“The people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with are phenomenal,” she said. “They’re not just great professionals, but they are also great friends and the hardest part about leaving Forsyth is leaving the people.
“We’re in a people business and it’s really been an honor to be able to work with such dedicated professionals … our teachers and leaders are always committed to putting students first.”
Pijanowski’s reach has extended beyond Forsyth County’s schools. She served on a committee for teacher effectiveness in the state’s Race to the Top effort.
While Forsyth has opted not to participate in the $400 million federal program, the committee’s work helped the state secure the grant money for the 26 participating school districts.
She’s a member of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, National Staff Development Council and the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.
“I always knew I wanted to teach,” said Pijanowski, recalling how she played school as a girl and later taught swimming and horseback riding lessons before earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in the education field.
Pijanowski added that she “always found opportunities to work with children.”
“It was an extremely difficult decision to leave because Forsyth is my home and my children go to school here and I love the fact that I contribute to my community’s school system,” she said.
“But I had some opportunities to do more with other districts that are not as well prepared as Forsyth … so it will be a great opportunity to be able to help others do some of the great things that we’re doing here.”
Pijanowski plans to spend some of July relaxing with her husband and three children. Making time for family is one way Hobson said she’s been impressed with Pijanowski.
“She finds a way to balance that with her work,” Hobson said. “She has tremendous drive and I truly admire her and all that she has done to bring leadership and vision to her district. She’s been a good friend and a mentor to me and someone that I can rely on and just go to for advice.
“In her future endeavors, I hope that we will have an opportunity to cross paths together.”
Evans said it’s Pijanowski’s passion for her work that sets her apart.
“We’re not going to let her change her telephone number,” Evans said. “We’ll always consider Lissa a personal friend to Forsyth County Schools.”