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District CIO

While the focus has often been on the importance of student information systems and learning management systems, the conversation today has shifted to making those systems powerful tools and leveraging them to move the needle on education outcomes.

Classrooms, libraries, and labs used to be the only spaces where students spent their time. Wireless connections, laptops and project learning have changed that, and VMDO Architects has explored opportunities in buildings and in the landscape. Above, students at John Handley High School in Winchester (Va.) Public Schools gather in the newly renovated math/science wing.

Staying apace of rapidly evolving technologies and the innovative practices they enable remains a major challenge for school and district leaders concerned with keeping students on the upside of an expanding digital divide. As digital innovations emerge that require continuous upgrading of technological infrastructure, hardware and software, as well as training school personnel, district administrators are being called on to be more creative and strategic than ever.

In 2008, long before “bring your own device” was a buzz term, administrators at Marion County (Fla.) Public Schools (MCPS) were looking for an alternative to a one-to-one laptop program. Scott Hansen, chief information officer, says that one-to-one just wasn’t feasible for the 42,000-student district, so administrators considered other options.

Debbie Karcher has worked in IT with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools for 27 years. After seventeen years with the district, she worked in the private sector for Amadeus and Motorola, returning in 2001 as CIO. She manages 500 people; 250 technicians are assigned to schools to support students and staff, and the rest are in development, training and security. District Administration often references M-DCPS, one of the nation’s largest districts. We felt it was time to talk with the CIO.