How to be a Tech Director Superhero

Public investment in K-12 schools has declined dramatically in a number of states over the last decade – and inhibited growth in many more. Worse, some of the deepest-cutting states have also cut income tax rates, weakening their main revenue source for supporting schools.

Most states cut school funding after the recession hit, and it took years for states to restore their funding to pre-recession levels in the 2008 timeframe.

In the previous 2017-18 school year, at least 12 states cut “general” or “formula” funding — the primary form of state support for elementary and secondary schools — by 7 percent or more per student over the last decade.

With budgets declining and costs increasing, most K-12 technology departments are feeling the fiscal pinch for salaries, hardware, software, and devices. This financial pain is causing some departments to run bare-bones operations.

The solution? Be a Tech Director Superhero, like Cody Martzluf.

Cody manages the student technologies for Illini Bluffs School District #327, where there are a number of exciting initiatives have been happening with technology infrastructure upgrades and technology integration. In the chaos that new tech initiatives can bring, Cody is a perfect example of how to make the tech director position shine against the backdrop of fiscal restraints. In addition to strict budgets, District #327 is also a Rural school district, which adds to the challenge of providing the highest quality scholastic technology.

His success is thanks to a 3-step process that every Tech Director should consider.


The only way Cody can manage the numerous moving technology parts with a high service level is to streamline all technology in the district. He spends a great deal of research and planning time looking at various software, SaaS, and hardware platforms that enable broad user and device management.

Technology in education has grown and evolved to the point where it impacts nearly every facet of school district operations and is the underlying foundation for all scholastic services. In his role, Cody is responsible for managing all the tools and devices used for communication and collaboration. Also, since over half their district’s devices are take-home he has to implement and support streamlined systems so the Student devices and technologies are easier to manage and maintain. Here are some of the solutions he deploys:

Google Apps for Education

Illini Bluffs utilizes Google Apps for Education as their main platform for student and staff collaboration tools. This platform allows them to easily manage all of their email accounts and multiple other productivity functions on 1,000 student Chromebook devices. This includes applying policies to user accounts and devices along with keeping track of inventory for all devices.

Microsoft’s Windows Deployment Services

They utilize Microsoft Windows on their staff laptops, office computers, computer labs, and classroom presentation devices. To manage this diverse set of assets they utilize Microsoft’s Windows Deployment Services. This lets them image all of their machines and setup computers in a matter of minutes, rather than days.

GoGuardian

Illini Bluffs utilizes GoGuardian for student device content filtering for students and classroom management for teachers. This software has helped Cody protect the kids when they’re online with their school issued devices. They also use this software to keep track of student device repairs.

Cisco Meraki 

Illini Bluffs upgraded their network infrastructure, standardizing on Cisco Meraki. Cisco Meraki’s dashboard technology allows them to easily manage and quickly make configuration changes to their wireless, network switches, and network firewall. They are able to monitor their network from any connected device, including their personal iPhones.

School Insight/TeacherEase 

Cody worked with the teachers and office staff to select a new student information system (SIS) to fit the district’s needs and make managing student data easier. They selected School Insight/TeacherEase by Common Goal Systems, and Cody led the implementation process which included making sure all staff get the proper training they needed. They then implemented a new online registration process where they could then accept electronic payments. When it was done, the new SIS solution allowed Cody to export student data for other systems fast and efficiently. For the management process of this solution, Cody is able to provide a high level of support because of the fact he was heavily involved with the selection and implementation.

Gumdrop Cases  

Illini Bluffs also has over 150 iPads, and they are all protected by a Gumdrop case. Thanks to that level of device safety, they haven’t had one issue with device breakage with iPads. This rugged case, combined with Cisco Meraki’s MDM allows Cody to manage the devices effectively and efficiently.

Cody has made a point of working with the district’s administration and board of education, as a vested part of the process. To that extent, he collaborates daily with the Superintendent and Principals to ensure the district’s technology program works to further their goals and initiatives. He also regularly presents at any relevant board meetings to champion for technology upgrades.

 

Cody worked with the district to hire a digital learning coach, Lindsey Lox, who helps district educators seamlessly integrate their technology and 21st century learning skills into their classrooms and curriculum. Together they research and discover manageable technologies that will work in the variety of classroom types. As part of that, they provide links, ideas, and videos of how to use the various solutions effectively.

In addition, the district has started a student technology support internship program where selected high school students are mentored by Cody and learn real-world skills necessary to provide level 1 tech support. Not only is that program fantastic for providing real-world experience, it also gives Cody an additional layer of support, which lets him focus more on solving advanced issues and big picture items.

Some have said that the shrinking budgets are becoming the “new normal” for K-12. These cuts weaken schools’ capacity to develop the intelligence and creativity of the next generation of workers and entrepreneurs, unless of course, you use the best practices of a Tech Director Superhero.

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