In the following interviews, two of the featured presenters from this track share their perspectives on the biggest challenges facing districts today, including the many key aspects of cybersecurity and the leadership strategies necessary for building a successful IT team.
Mark Racine, Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Boston Public Schools, leads the instructional and operational technology for the largest school district in New England. He joined the district in 2007 as a classroom teacher before joining the central administration in 2012 as the CIO, where he’s led multiple modernization projects across the district, including the move to Ed-Fi in 2018. At FETC 2020, he’ll be presenting on multiple important cybersecurity topics, including practical principles for districts to understand, as well as how to assess current security practices.
In this interview, he introduces some of the daily challenges faced in a large district and the approach he and his team have taken. Cyberthreats are increasing in frequency and, although they are usually less complex attacks such as phishing scams, the overall number of attempts make Racine take notice: "We're getting hit, at least, once or twice a day with really stupid low-tech phishing scams but, every time, we shake our heads like, 'How does somebody think that this works?’ But they're coming through every day."
"We know that this is a constant threat that we need to think about,” he adds, explaining why it’s important not to take seemingly minor threats lightly, or allow complacency to set in. “We need to think one step ahead of the game, and we don't perceive ourselves as being bulletproof."
In this conversation with Dr. Kenneth J. Thompson, Chief Information Technology Officer for the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD), hear this innovative leader’s assessment of the state of technology across education. He shares, in part, "There are a number of commonalities across every local education agency. Security; equity; access; equality; and funding. But the methodology that you use to achieve those goals [is distinct.] You have to take a different approach because you have to look at the players on the field. You have to look at the goals of the district. You have to look at the current leader, and the leader has an impact."
Thompson has spent over 25 years in senior-level technology positions. At FETC, his presentation topics will include the seven critical components of a successful IT team, equity versus access in student technology deployments, and more.
In the interview, he gives a preview of his insights on leading a district team: "The way you build the culture of the organization is critical, and you have to massage it very carefully. I don't care if you do it [from the] internal, external, or a mixture. You have to know IT. You have to know the application environment. You have to know the infrastructure environment and the service delivery environment. And if you don't know those components and the culture or feel of the organization, in my opinion, you'll fall flat on your face."
Visit edCircuit for more interviews with more FETC 2020 presenters