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Johnston schools need chief technology officer, consultants say

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SMITHFIELD — The Johnston County Public Schools should hire a chief technology officer, two consultants told the Board of Education recently.

“One cannot overestimate the importance of the effective use of technology to deliver quality instruction to students,” consultants Don Martin and Kerry Crutchfield said in their “wellness audit” of Johnston school spending.

School systems spend a lot of money on classroom technology, both hardware and software, the consultants said. “But rarely is there enough investment of time and resources in training teachers on how to use technology to improve student achievement,” they said.

In Johnston, the schools have a technology infrastructure officer, who reports to the chief of staff and communication; an executive director of information services, who reports to the chief of equity and student services; and a director of digital learning, who reports to the executive director of teacher effectiveness,

That structure isn’t serving the schools well, Martin and Crutchfield said. “The consultants learned in staff interviews that the technology infrastructure officer was not consulted on the decision to purchase the LINQ program that supports both finance and human resources,” the consultants said, referring to a software package.

Neither was the technology infrastructure officer part of the decisions to purchase video-conferencing software and a video-editing system that performed poorly for three years, the consultants said.

The technology infrastructure officer should become the chief technology officer, the consultants said. And “when major decisions are being made that will involve the use of technology, the new chief technology officer and technology staff need to be involved,” they said.

The consultants gave the schools high marks for their device-to-student ratio, which is almost 1:1. But while Johnston has standards for buying technology, it doesn’t always follow them, the consultants said.

“Since the district maintains, replaces and provides connectivity to all devices, it is imperative that technology standards be followed,” they said. “Failure to do so increases maintenance costs and many times renders equipment ineffective in delivering district-wide instructional resources,”

The consultants said they had also learned that Johnston doesn’t replace aging technology quickly enough. “While the technology refreshment cycle may have to be stretched beyond the ideal, it must be followed if all students are going to have equal access to technological devices in the future,” they said.

A chief technology officer overseeing a well designed department can do a world of good, the consultants said. “The consultants believe a chief technology officer serving on the superintendent’s cabinet would result in better technology purchases, vendor management before and after purchase, and avoid technology purchases that may not be compatible with existing equipment,” they said.

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