DA op-ed: What are you doing this summer?

By: | April 16, 2019
Preparation is key to the successful start of a new school year.Preparation is key to the successful start of a new school year.

 

Lenny Schad, one of the most prominent voices in K-12 technology leadership, is District Administration’s chief information and innovation officer.

Lenny Schad, one of the most prominent voices in K-12 technology leadership, is District Administration’s chief information and innovation officer.

As the 2018-19 school year comes to an end, all district employees are busy conducting their end-of-year shutdown tasks. For technology departments, the end of a school year marks the start of their busiest three months of the year—summer.

Technology teams are not only closing out the current school year, but are also busy preparing systems for summer school and the dreaded “new year” student rollover process. The rollover process promotes existing students to new grades. While these tasks are unavoidable, there are several activities that can be accomplished during the current-year shutdown process and over the summer to better prepare staff for the successful start of a new school year.

One of the first tasks should be the creation of checklists for end-of-year and summer activities. I have found that without these checklists there was always something our department forgot or assumed someone else was doing that impacted a smooth start of school.

Creating checklists as a team will ensure that nothing is left off the lists and that multiple departments are not performing the same tasks.

These lists should be evergreen, and additions and deletions can be made throughout the year. Don’t create these checklists and leave them on the shelf until May; too many changes occur during a school year that will impact each list.

End-of-year checklist

The end-of-year checklist focuses on organizational change management. With many district employees now getting ready to leave for the next few months, it is critical that the technology department communicate two key elements:

  • work to be done before leaving
  • significant changes that will be implemented over the summer

Expectation management is one of the biggest keys to having a successful start of the school year.

If employees are made aware of changes being done over the summer and given advance notice, including training opportunities, they will be better prepared when they return for the new school year.

Expectation management is most effective, I’ve found, when the technology department leader or the superintendent communicates changes.


Read: DA op-ed: 3 strategies for successfully navigating the budget reduction process


Your summer checklist

Beyond the technology team’s normal brick-and-mortar infrastructure tasks, there are some leadership opportunities to consider:

  • Conduct a year-in-review analysis. For example, your leadership team should review the 2018-2019 school year. The focus should be on goal achievement and a measurement review of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The review will enable you to make any necessary adjustments to the upcoming school year’s SLAs and KPIs in order to provide continued top service to district employees.
  • Define new goals and objectives for the upcoming school. And don’t stop there; make sure that these goals and objectives are prioritized, and include each of your department’s divisions. The process will ensure organization buy-in.
  • Schedule a meeting for your department to celebrate the successes of the 2018-19 school year. Too many times, we focus all of our energy on the tasks at hand and never acknowledge the hard work and accomplishments of the department staffers. After the celebration, discuss the identified opportunities for improvement, and introduce the goals, SLAs and KPIs for the upcoming school year. This meeting is a great opportunity to build department unity, alignment and focus. It will enable you to prepare the team for the summer work ahead and to focus on the 2019-20 school year.

Having a successful start of the school year is important for the district and your department; it sets the tone for the entire year. Preparation is key.

Here’s to a great end of the year and a productive summer.


Lenny Schad, one of the most prominent voices in K-12 technology leadership, is District Administration’s chief information and innovation officer.

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