Keeping Your Strategic Plan on Course

As Clear Creek ISD embarks on its 3rd  year of a personalized learning initiative, we’ve had the opportunity to reflect on a few things that have shaped our program from a strategic planning perspective, or that we’ve had to endure. For some things, it was a little bit of both. Allow me to share...

This year, at ISTE in Atlanta, I presented with Dr. Tory Hill and Amos Fodchuk on Digital Citizenship and also the Technology Integration Matrix. We realized that it was exactly one year earlier at ISTE in San Antonio that the three of us had met and figuratively linked arms with our teammates to build out the sustained, long-term professional learning plan for our district. Though our connections and teamwork came naturally, Tory was new to CCISD and Amos and his team at Advanced Learning Partnerships were also a new, welcome addition. Amos even had to leave at one point to go back and take his exam for US citizenship. (Even back then, we were international!) The addition of these teammates has helped CCISD reach even higher levels.

But there were bigger issues afoot. Though we already made purchase decisions, we were faced with having to consider the impact of organizational changes in the companies we were buying from. Dell was in the middle of a highly publicized effort to take the company private. We were well aware of the process and even had the opportunity to change course before cutting a purchase order. As CTO, I found myself doing financial analysis of private equity funding options and proxy battles in an increasingly high stakes game. 

At the time, I recommended that we stay the course with our purchase decision for two reasons. The first was because we realized that changes happen in technology companies regularly and we should not overreact. If the unthinkable should have happened to Dell, we would have simply searched for the next best Windows tablet vendor. But we didn’t really expect that to happen. In fact, the second reason we decided not to change course is that, after doing our homework, we were confident in how the transition would play out. Sure enough, when the “go private” initiative was complete, we had reason to celebrate because we knew that Dell would be unleashed to take a long-term, end-to-end solution approach that wasn’t bound by quarterly earnings reports. 

Not too long after ISTE, Steve Ballmer announced his retirement from Microsoft. You may recall that there was plenty of speculation as to who would be his successor. The smarter analysts identified an internal candidate: Satya Nadella, a man who worked to help build the best of Microsoft’s strategic assets and was uniquely positioned to understand how it can all come together. As William Gibson said, 

“The future is here - it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” Through his actions, comments, and memos as CEO now, Nadella plainly sees that this is true and that Microsoft has all of the components needed. The effort now is in making it all frictionless. Access + Frictionless = Ubiquitous. 

In summary, though our partners needed to change course, CCISD needed to stay the course. This is where strategic planning that is flexible but not reactive, can serve a district well. I’m grateful to work in a district where the most senior leadership embraces high quality strategic planning. We focused on what we could affect, specifically moving forward with personalized learning, but did not obsess about the things we could not change. (I keep in my mind that I think we can affect almost anything, but there are some limits!) In the end, we find ourselves well-positioned to bring about this transformation for our students.

Kevin Schwartz currently serves as the Chief Technology Officer for Clear Creek ISD, home of 40,000 students, NASA, and the Latitude 2 Learn 1:1 tablet computer initiative and he brings 20 years of experience in K-12. He is also Chair-elect of Texas of the Texas K-12 CTO Council and actively serves on the CoSN SEND and SmartIT committees. Kevin is a frequent presenter on a broad range of education technology topics and is a consultant to school districts that seek transformational changes in learning through technology. 


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