To East Side People Whom It May Concern

To East Side People Whom It May Concern;

First off, to those of you from the East Side community, thanks for taking the time to find this blog and sorry I didn’t have more of an opportunity to get to know you.

Since the Technology Status Report is apparently out in the open and some people may have a misconception or two about why I decided to leave, I would like to address a couple of reasons that were definitely not part of my decision to leave.

I did not leave because there was too much to do (ie. a lot of work). I was an IT Department of One for 8 years and moved my district towards 1:1 iPads in 3. Work I can handle.

I did not leave because the technical challenges were insurmountable. Every technical challenge can be solved. It may take time, resources and/or money but all of the challenges at East Side are solvable. Given the limited resources available, I think the department and I put together a good plan for improving the technology infrastructure for the district. That was the 18 month phase 1. Phase 2 was to be teacher and student tech. There were vision and funding challenges to be sure. But that’s pretty much universal in California right now.

I did not leave because there was no Hope. Actually, there should be a lot of hope because there are people that get it and people that care and like I said above, the technical issues can be solved. There is also Bond money to address the most critical issues and to start to move forward with teacher and student tech. I fully believe in the department and in all the passionate educators in the district that want to move learning forward for students. There is plenty of hope. Don’t give up (you know who you are).

So why then did I leave? In my “Leaving East Side” post I said my position became untenable. The part of that I’m going to address in this post is something very important that was pounded into me in the CETPA Certified CTO (that’s Chief Technology Officer) program. Despite that, somehow I managed to ignore it in my recent career choices. It is a very basic and straight forward concept. To be effective, a district technology leader has to be a member of cabinet.*

If technology does not have an equal seat at the leadership table with Instruction, Business and HR, the technology leader can never fully engage the entire organization to ensure technology is treated as the critical strategic asset that it is. And that is why in many districts technology either focuses too much on the backend business/IT systems (ie. the state of the art secure, locked down enterprise infrastructure) or too much on the latest and greatest technology solutions for getting out of program improvement (insert name of latest miracle cure software program here). A more balanced approach to successfully integrating technology across a district is needed now more than ever. The simple fact is that there are times when the technology leader needs to go toe to toe with Instruction or Business or both and that’s just not possible when the tech department is reporting under one or the other of those departments.

Technology cannot be a bolt on afterthought to education anymore. Given all the technology demands and trends facing education today, the technology leader needs to be on equal footing with the other leaders in the district and must have a seat at the table when strategic decisions are made. Otherwise a district won’t be able to position itself to meet the technology needs of today, let alone plan for those ten years into the future. Technology requires both a long and short game. Most districts aren’t playing the long game because they lack the strategic technology leadership position required to do so.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, for a district the size of East Side, with the management structure currently in place, in order to be truly effective as a Technology Leader and to build the vision and set the direction for integrating technology into the district, the technology leadership position must be a member of cabinet. Without that key piece, it’s all just managing costs and maintaining the status quo.

After spending 4 years on the admin leadership team at Le Grand UHSD building a vision for technology in the classroom and focusing on meeting the needs of students and teachers for the next decade of learning, some part of untenable for me was being relegated to a business service in a department that understood neither instruction nor technology.

* (Note:  Some districts may be getting away with this structure if they have flatter leadership or admin teams where the technology leader has input into the strategic decision making process without being on cabinet (Berryessa!) but even then, I would expect to see this changing over the next several years as technology continues to become ever more important to the day to day process of education and more critical to the relevancy of the whole school experience.)