ATLIS Virtual Town Hall 21 July 2021

The July 2021 Virtual Town Hall invited participants to share what they were most excited about for the coming school year and to ponder what kept them going when times were roughest. -- SD [10-minute read; 1 hour video]

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ATLIS Virtual Town Hall, July 21, 2021

A New School Year Takes Shape

By mid-July, technology leaders across the landscape of independent schools are starting to get a sense of what the year ahead may bring. All the pieces might not be in place yet, and the parameters of a pandemic that has not yet run its course continue to drive decision-making. Still, the outline of what lies ahead is beginning to take shape. We wondered, “What are you most excited about” as we look ahead to another school year unlike any we have experienced.

Blended Learning: If we learned anything over the past year and a half, we learned from experience how to tell when true blended learning works and when it doesn’t. The year ahead gives us a chance to explore those possibilities in more depth.

Data Captures: Mining data, for example from the college admissions process, is another area of opportunity. Schools are exploring ways to dig into data using tools from Blackbaud, Naviance, SCOIR, and Maialearning.com

Cybersecurity: Cyber attacks have proliferated -- and gained sophistication -- during the pandemic. It’s important to step back and re-imagine onboarding and training with this in mind.

Staffing: Many schools, still short handed, must take a hard look at staffing issues and getting the right team in place. 

Asset Management: The new year means a new look at asset management tools and processes. Getting things organized now could mean greater productivity down the road. Asset tagging and inventory play a critical role in management -- and the more you can get this under control ahead of the game the better.

Process Review: The summer has been a time for revisiting end-of-year tech processes, looking over warranties, and taking care of hardware and network fixes. One issue to consider is when to order your next deliveries of hardware and devices -- many companies have been slowed down during the pandemic, and turn-around times can be long.

Undaunted Mindsets for Undaunted Leaders

Heading into the ATLIS 2021: Undaunted Retreat in Seattle, we are thinking a lot about what it is that has sustained our community over the past several months. We asked, "What was the key strength that you found in yourself that kept you going?" Here are some of the answers you shared:

  • A sense of purpose to serve 
  • Seeing new interest and engagement with technology
  • Contagious growth
  • Being seen and recognized for the complex work we do


“We do so much invisible work,” said Maribel Castro of the Louise S. McGehee School, LA, “it was great to feel the appreciation, to have a sense of being seen and recognized.”


ATLIS Virtual Town Halls were witness to the many ways in which technology leaders took on new roles and responsibilities over the course of the pandemic. Some schools have recognized the remarkable work of their technology teams, but the ATLIS 2021 Compensation Report reveals that many have not compensated technology leaders who have consistently taken on new and additional responsibilities with a corresponding increase in pay. If you have used the data in this report to lobby your administration for improvements, ATLIS would like to hear from you so that we can document your story. Contact Christina Lewellen, [email protected], if you wish to share your experience.

Building and Nurturing Relationships

As technology leaders often find themselves as translators and executors of the school’s vision and direction, partnering with other school thought leaders may be key for moving forward into our next phase. We asked, "What are you specifically doing to address that key aspect of your leadership?"

  • Walk around campus during summer to create impromptu run-ins.
  • Going out to lunch with members of the leadership team, learning what do they do on a day to day basis, what keeps them up at night 
  • Having personal conversations to build a positive rapport 

“Technology is always relational and emotional.” -- Peter Antupit, Crystal Springs Uplands School, CA

One participant suggested becoming an influencer, recommending the Freakonomics podcast episode, “How to Get Anyone to Do Anything."

Unsolved Problems

COVID and other emergencies continue to have an impact on our schools -- it’s not over yet.

What Are You Doing with Unused AV Equipment?
One participant asked, “What are you doing with your AV deployment equipment?” 

While some schools made the decision to get rid of unused or broken devices due to maintenance needs, with new virus variants spreading, they may end up right back where they were a year ago and having to purchase new equipment all over again.

At other schools, technology teams have made the decision to keep the tech in place, at least until we know what the future holds. Flexibility is still key. One participant packed up all the equipment into tubs and stored them in each room for later use.

Another school decided to move all the best equipment to select rooms in order to continue to leverage technology for online parent-teacher conferences and other events.

Tight Budgets Affect Staffing
Equipment isn’t the only issue. Tight budgets also affect staffing when skilled technologists can be lured away from schools with higher salaries elsewhere. 

Setting a School Policy for Emergency Schooling
The pandemic isn’t the only factor that can lead to school adjustments in their learning delivery models. Wildfire and other emergencies can come into play. Schools would do well to publish a policy up front for when and how their learning will shift under various emergency conditions.

Technology leaders need to stay informed about what is happening behind the scenes as school needs continue to evolve.

SUGGESTED RESOURCE

Jen Lamkins, "Mission & Motivation: A Place at the Leadership Table for School Technology Leaders," NetAssets, NBOA, 10 October 2017.



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