Award Recipient - Regional Community: Sonia Hooks
Sonia Baccus Hooks is the Assistant Director, of Technology Services for the nation’s largest regional education agency, serving 80 school districts and approximately 2 million preschool and school-aged children. She is a seasoned executive with over thirty years’ experience in project management.
In serving LACOE, Sonia has been an advocate for instructional technology, connectivity, professional development and online learning. Her expertise in district and school site engagement has helped secure state, federal and corporate funding for student programs and teacher training across the county. Reporting to the Chief Technology Officer, Sonia provides a critical role in operations, compliance and fiscal management for over $70 million annually. Expenditures include cyber-security, data management, hardware and software acquisitions for business operations and instruction.
Most recently, she serves as the project lead for Closing the Digital Divide with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to connect students to instruction by providing hot spots and computers to over 35,000 students in critical need. As a result, she was recognized as Administrator of the Year by the Association of LA County Office School Administrators (ALACOSA) in 2022. Her efforts continue to Delete the Digital divide by advocating for low cost or free broadband access to homes and STEM opportunities for under-served urban and rural communities.
Prior to LACOE, Sonia served as the Vice-President of the Magic Johnson Foundation to provide HIV/AIDS education, prevention and care throughout the United States. She holds a B.S. in business administration and an M.A. in education technology from California State University Dominguez Hills.
How long have you been in your current role and how did you get there?
"I have worked at the Los Angeles County Office of Education for 26 years, initially brought on to manage the California Technology Assistance Project (before Erate), I worked with the state technology office to gather school and district technology surveys in the 1990s, developed district technology plans and provided professional development with Digital High Schools. We succeeded in connecting schools and teachers to the internet, however, the pandemic magnified that fact that we missed the home to school connection. I’ve been working to close the gap for since March of 2020 and advocate for students and their families to be connected and supported through Digital Literacy. Connectivity is not a luxury it is a necessity, just like running water and electricity. I will continue to advocate for my community when I retire December 26, 2023."
What's a recent win you've had at work?
"Engaging with my Chief Financial Officer and planning for software and hardware to be centrally funded and managed by Technology Services. Our technology team are the experts in cloud computing, cybersecurity and trends in AI. If we work on behalf of the enter enterprise we can work more efficiently, leverage lower pricing not only for LACOE but in support for our 80 school districts."
How long have you been a CITE member? What is your favorite memory from a CITE event?
"Seeing the hall of fame photos in the lobby, it was actually CEPTA then, I have no idea how long I have been a member. So many great memories of leaders who have worked in technology for decades. Jane Kauble worked across the hall from me and Greg Lindner was my former CTO. So many of my colleagues have retired so it was great to see them at the conference."
What do you do in your limited free time?
"Free time, what is that! I'm a big fan of college football and basketball as well as the professional games. I'm a proud native of Inglewood, California a self-proclaim foodie and Minion fan. I enjoy spending time with my husband (also an educator), my adult twin daughters, and extended family as well as working at Southside Church of Christ www.southsidechurchofchristla.org with our multimedia ministry and Concerned Citizens Community Involvement to support health, education and well-being in South Los Angeles. www.cccinvolve.org"
Are there any special shout outs you'd like to give to someone in your life or the CITE community who has made a special impact on you?
"I truly love working with my team. Thank you to my current CTO Jose Gonzalez for seeing my value and abilities his first day at LACOE and advocating for women in technology leadership. Johan Madrigal is my partner in the trenches, and he surprised me with this nomination, I didn't see it coming. My biggest shoutout with be to God for blessing me throughout the years, for as much as He has given me, I live by the mantra that I am required to give back to others."
If someone is intimidated or reluctant to get involved with CITE, what advice would you give them?
"Learning to be a leader can be uncomfortable. A closed fist can't enjoy the rewards of networking and extending a hand to someone you have never met before."
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