Volume One: The Journey Begins

by Mary Cullinane, School of the Future Technology Architect


"Why Philadelphia?" The answer is surprisingly simple: They asked.


Through the visionary leadership of Paul Vallas, the CEO for the School District of Philadelphia, Sherri Bealkowski, Microsoft Education Solutions Group General Manager, and Anthony Salcito and Ann Alexander, members of Bealkowski's team, the opportunity to build a School of the Future for 800 kids in grades 9-12 was presented to and accepted by Microsoft.


The next question asked… "How much money will Microsoft donate?" Again, a simple answer.

From the beginning, the team at Microsoft knew that the value of this endeavor relied on the ability of others to replicate our learnings. Therefore, if Microsoft and our partners donated millions of dollars, others might look and just say, "Great for Philadelphia and 800 kids, but it doesn't scale."

So we knew that this school's funding had to come from Philadelphia, and the funding had to be part of their general school expansion capital plan.


In the end, that is exactly what happened. Microsoft committed to human capital and leveraged resources. By sharing our best practices and providing insight and access to internal resources, we believe, that together with the School District of Philadelphia, the School of the Future can be built. And what will be left, is a blueprint for others throughout the U.S. to leverage and follow.


So, to start we have implemented Microsoft's traditional 30/60/90-day plan format. We have outlined three specific areas of activities that will be addressed in the first 30, 60 and 90 days of the program:


  • Communication – Get the message out and build a collaborative planning infrastructure.
  • Integration – Understand the district's infrastructure and opportunities for leveraging Microsoft and partner solutions.
  • Innovation – Investigate best practices around the U.S. and document the desired education specifications.



  • Conducted a three-day internal review of all district departments and strategic plans.
  • Visited "innovative application" school sites in Florida and identified future schools to be visited.
  • Created both this Web site and an alias for project communication. Correspondence and user inquiries will be addressed here: phillyhi@microsoft.com.
  • Started creating "Day-in-the-Life" scenarios for students, teachers, and administrators so that they can help develop applicable education specifications and space planning.
  • Formulated a partner matrix to act as a tool to maintain and manage partner inquiries.


Learnings and Next Steps


Embarking on a project such as School of the Future brings with it many challenges; current infrastructures and technology initiatives, political events, internal apprehensions and conflicting priorities. However, the people involved in this project are dedicated to kids. They are committed to making sure that nothing short of the best is available to the students of Philadelphia and they believe that anything is possible. It is this spirit that will lead to success, and it is this perseverance that will prove unstoppable.


On December 6, 2003, I will be moving to the East Coast to focus on the Philadelphia School of the Future Project, and to ensure that learnings are leveraged throughout the United States.

We hope you enjoy these chronicles and if you, your partners, or your customers have any questions or comments, please send e-mail to: phillyhi@microsoft.com.