Taking the CIO Role from Traditional to Transformational
A discussion with Lenny Schad, a prominent voice in K12 edtech leadership
Lenny Schad recognizes that today’s CIO is challenged with a transition from traditional methodologies to a more holistic strategic partnership with districts. He is excited about the future of the profession and looks forward to FETC 2020 in Miami, where industry leaders will convene to push one another’s thinking. “When you look at FETC 2020, you’re going to see a full program of, ‘how do you move from tactical partner to strategic partner? What does it mean to move from pockets of innovation to districts of innovation?’ And, ‘what is organizational change management, and what is the role of organizational change management in initiatives?’”
Additionally, Schad points to other themes to expect at FETC 2020, including equity in technology, data privacy, organizational cybersecurity, and an increased emphasis on school leadership’s role in technology. “You look at the topics, and they are things that will help CIOs, aspiring CIOs, and other technology leaders start actionable steps that can help them move from the traditional [CIO] role into the transformational,” he adds.
In the past, technology was often introduced before proper district-wide planning took place, creating a mishmash of results. But now district leaders are taking the lead and flipping the emphasis from individual needs to district-wide integration. “There’s an importance in understanding what the district leadership and the various departments are trying to accomplish in their vision. That’s where it has to start,” explains Schad. “I think CIOs need to take a step back and, rather than quickly solving the ‘how,’ they need to spend time within the organization defining ‘why’ they’re trying to solve it and what they’re trying to accomplish.”
The upcoming FETC 2020 will support CIO efforts regardless of district size. Alongside content designed for leaders of large districts, workshops and sessions for small independent school systems will take place, highlighting the unique challenges facing smaller districts. As Schad points out, there will be additional IT tracks at FETC 2020. Technology leaders will have the opportunity to learn leadership, strategy, organizational change management, and project management skills.
“What we’re going to provide at FETC this year is a lot like a bicycle. The front wheel of the bicycle is all about steering, balance, guiding and direction. We’re going to have sessions and workshops that will all focus on that,” says Schad.
Beyond FETC, there are CIO summits and CIO academies leading into this summer and fall. The first is in Chicago over the summer, followed by a summit in Long Beach, Calif. in November. This year’s theme is “The Changing Role of the CIO.” The summits concentrate on actionable steps for attendees to aid in their transformational roles and drive change. And the academies represent sessions for young CIOs, aspiring CIOs, and even veteran CIOs to sharpen their skills.
As Schad enthusiastically states, “These are two avenues beyond FETC. My colleagues and I are going to leverage the experience we’ve had over the last twenty-some years and help pass that knowledge onto the next generation of CIOs.”
The 40th anniversary Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) will take place January 14-17, 2020 in Miami, Fla. Registration is now open at https://www.fetc.org/register
Lenny Schad, one of the most prominent voices in K12 technology leadership, is Chief Information & Innovation officer for District Administration at LRP Media Group, and is also the FETC program chair for the Future of Ed Tech Information Technology Track. He most recently served as CIO of Houston ISD, and previously as CIO of Katy ISD in Texas. Keep up-to-date on district-level technology leadership by reading Lenny’s District Administration columns and following him on Twitter