An Information Systems Framework

Leonard LeVine, Chief Technology Officer, Escondido Union School District

Leonard LeVine, Chief Technology Officer, Escondido Union School District

We can always be better. During the height of the pandemic, this is what guided our small but effective technology team in supporting our staff and students. And, this is what continues to inspire our team’s ability to innovate and find new ways of improving business processes and the delivery of instruction. It centers around the fundamental framework of people, processes and procedures, and a myriad of systems composed of hardware, software and data. The integration of all of this is what keeps an organization agile and able to respond to changing conditions. For the Escondido Union School District, there are many examples of when we have had to quickly assess and adapt to a new situation to be able to seamlessly support our focus goals of student achievement, positive culture and diversity, safety and security, and fiscal solvency. Our student information system, PowerSchool, is one area where we've been able to support a number of new initiatives for structuring classroom assignments in learning management systems such as Google Classroom and SeeSaw. We also leveraged PowerSchool to tailor the login experiences and landing pages in Clever for students across different grade levels to gain access to various applications and their teachers’ pages. To support classroom management and device monitoring, we used Apple Classroom, and automated the setup of class assignments by integrating Apple School Manager and PowerSchool. Although PowerSchool is provided as an example, the real point is that a whole lot of changes came at us rapidly and we would not have been successful without an effective operational framework.

People

Our people have been and continue to be our center of strength. We have a culture of teachers and staff that are genuinely committed to the education, care, and development of our students. We share a common philosophy that encourages continuous learning, growth, and development. The organizational culture in our district permeates an infectious spirit of helpful attitudes and tendencies to work together in order to make things better. This can-do approach promotes a tenacity for problem solving and an imagination for what’s possible. The integration of technology is always welcomed and we focus our efforts on ease of use and added value.

The adoption of new technology and changes to business processes or how teachers manage the delivery of instruction can be very challenging. By approaching this from a stakeholder perspective, our technology team has never proceeded alone in introducing change and our contributions to improving effectiveness and efficiency have exponentially increased. The take-away here is to provide clear purpose, prepare and train your staff ahead of time, develop a culture of shared responsibility and teamwork, and then trust your people to accomplish what’s needed.

Processes and Procedures

Part of staying agile is recognizing that plans, processes and procedures are ever-evolving and require continuous review and improvement. Our district has been guided by an inclusive principle of integrated planning and bottom-up refinement. We actively encourage input from our community, teachers, staff, and administrators and have put in place design team concepts to encourage initiative, sharing of ideas, and decentralized execution of critical tasks across all operational areas from nutritional and custodial support, to instruction, supervision and social emotional learning in our classrooms. There are always lessons to be learned and taking the time to debrief has been essential for us to make rapid improvements when and where needed most in both our day-to-day operations and within our programs and resources. Never be afraid to peel the onion back, dive deep into an area, and be willing to implement changes.

Systems

Technology systems have a range of both capabilities and limitations. It’s critical to know and understand dependencies and the intricacies of every system. We discover all kinds of nuances with our systems when we stretch the limits of how they are employed and support the district’s data-driven decision making. In one case, we discovered a server that had a faulty network interface card that caused instability in our file stores and directory services. In other instances, we discovered that data had to be formatted a certain way in order to be consumed by another system. We created a new systems integration position and this has helped us use data to automate processes and support new requirements. The example here is to recognize where gaps exist across the framework and seek the commitment needed to get it fixed.

Our leadership continues to recognize the importance of every component of the framework, and leveraging technology is at the core of what we do to always seek a better outcome. With this mindset, there’s always a willingness to change in order to achieve new possibilities. We’re way beyond just the integration of our student information system. Together, we’re using a framework that provides personalized instructional paths for our students and access to fun and engaging digital platforms for learning and assessment. We also continue to improve our business processes, communication, collaboration, and care for one another. Our technology team is just one part of an effective strategy for continuously striving to make things better for our district and supporting the larger information systems framework.

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Education and Learning Analytics Special
Top 10 Innovative School District Tech Director

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