Magazine article Technology & Learning

The Best Defense: Everyone Knows CIOs Are Vital to School Success-Right?

Magazine article Technology & Learning

The Best Defense: Everyone Knows CIOs Are Vital to School Success-Right?

Article excerpt

At the SchoolCI0 Technology Summit this June, we were devastated to hear that many superintendents still see the 00 job as tech support rather than an integral part of the district. Even worse, some of our attendees told us they're in danger of losing their jobs.

Take Cary Petersen, for example. This July, Petersen went from spending eightyears as executive director of IT for Jefferson County (KY) Public Schools to becoming the manager of advanced systems. In his former role, Petersen was in charge of all the tech support and MIS functions as well as instructional technology. He had five direct reports and managed a team of 120 people. Today, he works on the district's student information system, manages state reporting and controls some of the former technology funds. "I'm not sure who will create the next tech plan," he says. "I used to chair a tech committee that did all of the planning and execution of the plan, but once the auditors dissolved my position, the committee was dissolved too."

Steven M. Baule, superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Illinois, says this type of restructuring has become all too common. "In the last couple of years almost every district has had to evaluate everything. Unless you're seen as providing value-added services from a strategic standpoint, it's easy to reassign IT people to curriculum or slide it under business."

Geoff Fletcher, deputy executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, agrees that CIOs often get shortchanged. "When I was with the Texas Department of Education, we had to decide if you put edtech with curriculum or with IT. What's different now is the severity of the budget crisis." Fletcher advises CIOs to be vocal about whatthey can bring to the table. "Technology is a part of everything. We have to let others understand how we can help them accomplish their goals."

"The factthata CIO or tech director can be cut reflects the dominant mindset that technology is not core to learning and teaching," says Scott McLeod, founding director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education 'Districts send very few messages that technology is important from a formal policy standpoint" McLeod knows lots of smaller districts that outsource many aspects of technology, including web design, web hosting and tech support.


So, what can CIOs do to change the mindset and protect their jobs?

Lots of things, says McLeod. "First, you have to play the political and marketing games as a CIO if you want to be considered essential. Make sure others know what educational value you are adding to learning and teaching. If you can'tpointto concrete things that you do that help with targets and growth of learning forget it."

Another way to prove your value is to get certified. Thanks to the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), that's an actual possibility. When members asked how to elevate the importance and necessity of the CIO position, CoSN asked volunteers to create the Framework of Essential Skills (see sidebar). This document provides a list of what's needed at the CIO level to integrate technology into all parts of the district But the Framework was just the first step.

In December of last year, CoSN unveiled the Certified Education Technology Leader (CETL) Certification Program ( The exam has two parts. …

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