This school district empowers parents by giving them direct access to IT

Chris Saxon, IT director at the Cherokee County School District in Georgia, and his team created an IT "call center" for families dedicated to providing troubleshooting assistance for their child's devices and other issues. Here's how he says it's going.

As K12 education becomes increasingly complex for educators and students alike, IT professionals carry an even greater responsibility to ensure technology solutions are implemented as seamlessly as possible. However, the pandemic proved to education leaders that one key stakeholder group simply cannot be left out of the loop when it comes to edtech: parents.

COVID-19 forced many schools to adopt a 1:1 technology plan so that every student could receive continued instruction at home. But as one can imagine, the help tickets began to pile up, as was the case for Chris Saxon, IT director at the Cherokee County School District in Georgia. That’s when he decided he would create an IT “call center” for parents to bring their questions directly to the IT team so they could be addressed quickly, allowing the IT team to spend the rest of their time addressing high-priority tickets in the queue.

“We had the idea for it probably a year or so before the pandemic started,” Saxon explains. Before the pandemic, he and his team would conduct all of their troubleshooting in person throughout each school. But for obvious reasons, they had to reevaluate their plans.

“We spun it up rather quickly, and in the summer of 2020 we officially started what we call the ‘Customer Care Center,'” he says. “I pulled three of my field-based technicians out of schools and we designated some space here in our office for them to sit and not only answer calls but also tickets.”

He says one of the most frequently reported issues he hears from parents leveraging this service is that they need help logging into a particular portal. In his district’s case, they use Canvas as their Learning Management System (LMS).

“There a lot of things that users get to through their browser and they think technology can help them with that, but sometimes it’s another department or division. In our case it’s curriculum,” says Saxon. “But I would say we help with passwords and helping them get into their 365 account or another type of resource.”

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The second most common issue parents run into is not knowing how to connect their student’s school-issued device to their home Wi-Fi. Each of these issues is taken care of quickly over the phone as intended. And starting next summer, parents will have year-round access to Saxon’s staff through the call center.

He emphasizes that a unified platform is “key” for streamlining support and help requests so that all district stakeholders receive the support they need. He says the call center wouldn’t have been possible without their unified platform powered by Incident IQ.

This year’s priorities

As far as CCSD is concerned, there’s much more to be celebrated surrounding their efforts to create an inclusive learning environment as it pertains to technology. Saxon says they’re well on their way to expanding a 1:1 technology initiative while working with their curriculum and instruction department to provide training on blended learning.

Most importantly, they’re making sure both teachers and administrators understand that as these technologies are used in the classroom, they must remind themselves that they should only be used to enhance instructional practices, not replace them.

“We don’t want them to focus on the technology,” he says. “We want the instruction to drive how the technology can be used.”

What district communities need to know

In light of National IT Professionals Day, which fell on Tuesday, Sept. 19, District Administration asked Saxon to share the one thing he wants those outside of the IT profession to know. Here’s what he had to say.

“There is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes than people know,” he explains. “I think that’s true in any industry. For our folks in IT, it’s easy to see how they’re being helpful when they’re in their classroom fixing their panel, printer or laptop. But they don’t understand that when things are going wrong, a lot of folks are working behind the scenes to make it right.”

“We all care a lot about how we impact the classroom, especially IT folks. I have a great team of people who put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Those outside of IT should know that we’re here for them and support them.”

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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