District Administration September 2017 - 64

DISTRICT CIO

WALK THE WALK

CTOs need to make
sure the learning engine
is running all day.
-Sheryl Abshire, CTO,
Calcasieu Parish Public Schools

technology into the curriculum. In the
first year, the teachers tested their ideas
within their own classrooms. In the second year, Brehm's team worked with the
teachers to expand their idea across the
school or grade level. If it was successful,
the team deployed the idea across the district in the third year.
Among the projects that emerged from
this design-thinking process was a secondgrade lesson on inclined planes, in which
students used 3D printers to prototype
ramps. Another was a library program in
which elementary school students learned
Python code to program robots.
In PD sessions, Brehm has had to
model "psychological safety" to make
people feel comfortable about sharing
their mistakes. "Although sometimes
people become a little too psychologically
safe," he says, explaining that people used

the opportunity to say things that were
occasionally inappropriate. "We had to
develop a new phrase saying it's OK to
have an unexpressed thought."
Critical thinking: Diving into the data
As districts adopt more online tools, curriculum and books, the performance of
IT systems becomes increasingly missioncritical. At DeKalb County Schools in
Georgia, Gary Brantley uses data dashboards with predictive analytics to monitor the performance of computer systems
and identify network problems before
they affect classrooms.
When Brantley presented the data at
district cabinet meetings, he says they were
able to see the gains and struggles. More
importantly, the data made all aware of
exactly what issues they were facing and
how to develop a plan to fix them.

4 components of an
agile startup mentality
Leo Brehm, learning evolution officer at Central
Massachusetts Collaborative, has identified four
components of the agile start-up mentality required
for innovation:
1. Teaming: Identify essential people for a project and quickly determine one
another's expertise so the team can work together productively.
2. Psychological safety: Create an environment where people feel comfortable
that they can share ideas without fear, Brehm says.
3. Growth mindset: "The ability to prototype, fail, try again and present those
findings," Brehm says.
4. Asking the right questions: Better questions guide better design, Brehm says.
In the context of education, it involves "developing the right questions to meet the
outcomes of the curriculum."

64 September 2017

That commitment to analytics also
caught the attention of the school board
and ultimately served as a model as the
district confronted high drop-out risks
at about 25 of its schools. Inspired by
Brantley's use of predictive data, DeKalb
County adopted software to identify students at risk of dropping out. The software
tracks assessments, behavior and attendance to develop a complete picture of
each student's performance.
Over a period of about six months, the
system flagged approximately 900 at-risk
students. The district then implemented
intervention programs that provide those
students with social and emotional support, as well as housing and food assistance, to get them back on track.
Collaboration for anywhere, anytime
Sheryl Abshire has been the CTO at Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Louisiana
for 20 years and has worked in the district
for more than 40. She says the CTO's role
has become a 24/7/365 job because technology is so integrated into instruction.
"Learning is not an 8 o'clock to 3 o'clock
endeavor anymore," she says. "And it's the
responsibility of the CTO to make sure
the learning engine of the district is up and
running every day, all day long."
Despite the round-the-clock demands,
Abshire has very low staff turnover. One
reason is that Abshire practices the same
24/7 dedication that she expects from her
staff, she says. "Whatever I'm asking you
to do, you can be assured that the expectation of myself is double," she says.
Abshire and her team support 34,000
students and 6,000 teachers and staff,
any of whom may require tech help outside of regular school hours. The district
offers online AP courses, summer school,
and summer camps. Teachers and students also connect to the district's online
resources on evenings and weekends.
When the network is down or a teacher
is having problems with the learning management system, the IT team receives a text
alert, and they don't hesitate to call Abshire
if they need her input. Some teachers even
call her at home to ask for help.

District Administration



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration September 2017

District Administration September 2017 - Cover1
District Administration September 2017 - Cover2
District Administration September 2017 - 1
District Administration September 2017 - 2
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