Why Every School Needs a CTO

wooden labyrinth board

by Alexa_Fotos from Pixabay

10 years ago, there was a perception among school leaders that the technology department was largely a branch of school operations that had little intersection with the actual “business” of education. The work of teaching and learning could largely progress without academic leaders cultivating a close relationship with technology personnel. Technology was largely seen as a utility in the school environment: we think about email like we think about water. Everyone is happy and unmotivated to connect with the professionals until there’s an interruption in service.

In the span of a little over a decade, however, technology has permeated every crevice of student, teacher, and administrator patterns. In the table below, I’ve outlined just a sample of the ways technology is impacting the top four areas of management in a typical school or district. I’ve included more comprehensive list at the end of this post for those who wish a more complete understanding or those accessing this page through a screen reader.

Leaders of the management areas above require context for each of the decisions listed. Below the surface of each purchase, settings and requirements of the software and hardware selected have unseen impacts. This is where the chief technology officer (CTO) comes in.

To colleagues leading the departments above, a CTO brings the important context of:

Security

  • With the new realities of data breaches affecting even the most reputable of providers, CTOs bring due-diligence to agreements and facilitate negotiations around what student data will be necessary to hand over to when a school makes an agreement with software providers.

Interoperability

  • Automation of business processes can save workload from shrinking staffing numbers. When the creation and management of accounts is a factor in software selections, the CTO can help academic and operations leaders save their people time and improve compliance efforts across their teams.

Disruptive Technology

  • When leaders set out to make choices based on technologies they’ve heard about or seen, the CTO can set those technologies into a larger context of technology tools and use cases. Perhaps a less costly technology can provide a similar or more fully-developed feature set, or an entirely different tool and process can fulfill the same goal but with less labor.

Policy Interpretation

  • CTOs can provide their colleagues with interpretation of important state and government-level laws and guidelines, like SOPIPA, COPPA, CIPA, HIPAA, and FERPA. Specific questions ought to be asked of any software contract, and a CTO’s critical evaluation can save the district much time and money.

Technical Impact

  • The CTO has the best view of the current state of the school’s network architecture, its capacity, and the burden placed upon it by everyday use.

In 1938, Charles Barnard, CEO of New Jersey Telephone and management theorist, wrote that the “first executive function” of an organization’s leaders is “to develop and maintain a system of communication”. Without a CTO at the table of school and district leaders, an important gap exists in the communication loop necessary for proactive decision making. With a CTO, a school or district is able to select, implement, and maintain technologies that advance learning and promote the engagement of students in a global marketplace.

If you have a CTO, take a few moments to thank them. The job has a broad scope and success comes from diligent work. If you don’t have a CTO, Nick Smarrelli, CEO of GadellNet, recently wrote a blog post about CTO offerings through our company. We would love to chat through ways we could help your school succeed.

–Drew

Below is a more comprehensive list of items within the big 4 management areas outside of technology that benefit from technology context. I’ve also included IT requirements that sit firmly within the CTO’s purview.

 Academics – 

  • Student Information System (SIS)
  • Cloud-based collaboration software (G-Suite, O365)
  • Learning Management System (Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle)
  • Curriculum-specific software and hardware
  • Classroom Audio/Video
  • Professional Development for teachers
  • State and benchmark testing platforms
  • Assistive technology
  • Library Program
  • Data warehouse platform and practices
  • Policies and practices around web filtering
  • Special Education Initiatives
  • Tech selection in line with state and federal technology laws, like SOPIPA, FERPA and COPPA

People – 

  • College and Career planning for students
  • Acceptable Use Policies
  • Evaluation tools for faculty and staff
  • Professional Development for Staff
  • Talent Management
  • Onboarding and offboarding of staff and students
  • Student Recruitment
  • Identification management (staff and students)
  • Behavior management and reporting (either through the SIS or other platform)
  • Visitor management
  • Volunteer management
  • Student enrollment
  • Human Resources Information System (HRIS)
  • Health Records
  • Privacy compliance in line with FERPA and HIPAA

Finance – 

  • Financial Reporting and Analysis
  • Accounting
  • Point of Sale for Food Services (often integrated into SIS)
  • Asset Management
  • Payroll
  • Customer Relationship Management for Fundraising team
  • Auction Software for Fundraising team
  • Compliance and controls for regular audits
  • Warranties and Contracts
  • PCI compliance

Operations – 

  • Work Orders
  • Transportation
  • Time Clock
  • Digital Signage
  • HVAC management
  • Large venue A/V
  • Intercom
  • Security System
  • Security Cameras
  • Phone System
  • Construction Projects

Technology – 

  • Network Architecture
  • IT Management and Process
  • Network Security
  • Software Licensing and Renewals
  • Software Contract Review
  • Web Accessibility Compliance
  • IT Ticketing and Resolution
  • Business Continuity Plan
  • Disaster Recovery Plan
  • Security Breach Plan

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