Innovation and execution are the two key skills today’s K-12 chief technology officers need to help a district excel, a panel of tech-savvy superintendents told FETC Thursday.
The group also took a deep dive into how a superintendent and CTO can work together most effectively at the session, “Leading and Teaming with District Technology Leaders: Three Superintendent Perspectives.” First, all three of the superintendents on the panel have made their CTO a member of their cabinet and leadership teams.
“It needs to be a high-level position, it’s such a difficult position,” said Mark Benigni, superintendent of Meriden Public Schools in Connecticut. “You’re going to work with everyone who works in a school system. Technology is going to have a role in improving their environment.”
One of the keys for today’s CTOs is balancing the hardware and instructional needs of a district. That means they have to both troubleshoot devices and help teachers advance their technology skills, said Matthew Miller, superintendent of Lakota Local School District near Cincinnati.
The CTO’s team of innovation specialists has to be the “boots on the ground” to help teachers integrate ed-tech into their curriculum and also provide professional development. “I want a leader who executes,” said Scott Muri, superintendent of Ector County ISD in Texas. “They need to push the system forward.”
Relief funding powers ed-tech
In Ector County ISD, ESSER relief funding will not be dedicated to launching new tech programs, Muri said.
“It will allow us to accelerate some of the work we had already started planning,” he said. “ESSER isn’t about ‘shiny new’—it’s about accelerating the good work we’re doing.
All of the superintendents also said having their CTOs guide teachers in adopting software and other digital resources is an ongoing cybersecurity issue, particularly since early in the pandemic when many companies made their products free. In Meriden schools, the administrators also rely on teachers who have become tech specialists to help steer innovation while maintaining security.
“We want teachers to find something that can engage students in learning,” Benigni says. “But we’re not going to put students and districts at risk.”