“I want to be out in schools. I want to see how our tools are used. Once I see that, that motivates me and it motivates my team to move forward and enhance the tools, enhance the access, enhance the way we deliver services, enhance the way we respond, enhance the way we repair, the whole approach.”
To Dr. Kenneth J. Thompson, it’s all about getting out from behind the desk, into the classroom and connecting with the students. He serves as the chief information technology and accountability officer for the San Antonio Independent School District. Thompson is also a featured speaker at FETC© 2023 in January.
He served 11 years in the U.S. Air Force as a communications officer and eventually “fell into K-12” serving a much smaller district, which he says taught him how to wear multiple hats.
“This is my fourth district,” says Thompson. “I’ve served everywhere from 85,000 down to 2,000 students. Every day I come and sit in this seat, it’s about making a difference in students’ lives.”
“My first K-12 organization was a very small district, about 2,000 students,” he says. “In that district, it was so small I got to learn everything. I got to learn human resources, I learned child nutrition, finance, IT, all of it. You had your fingers in all pots.”
Understanding the importance of perspective allows him to look through the eyes of his “babies,” a term of endearment he frequently uses to describe his students.
“When you bake in your own background, not having access, not having exposure, not having the access to the tools, you bake that in and you take your life experiences and what you’ve seen in other districts,” he says. “You take the baby with the nasty nose and the rusty ankles, and you picture them in that seat having access to all the tools that they need, and that’s what drives you. Making sure all, regardless of your zip code, regardless of your family makeup, regardless of your background, regardless of who your daddy and mama are, and ensure that they have access to the tools that are necessary for their success.”
Schools across the country are entering what they hope is the first year of normalcy now that many COVID-19 restrictions have been removed. Yet, Thompson says he wants his district to continue implementing the practices they adopted during the pandemic… because they worked.
“It’s changed everything,” he says. “I had a board member tell me, ‘We don’t want to go back to normal.’ The pandemic caused us to rethink the way we did our work, our processes, the way we approached things, the whole nine yards. And out of that, I don’t care what anybody says, we brought some innovation, and we brought some efficiencies.”
He hopes COVID is gone for good, but he believes that he can take that experience as an opportunity to build upon the technological advancements they’ve started.
“The way we were doing curbside, the way we were doing TeleTech, having folks on the Zoom, I think those are tools that we need to keep in our portfolio,” says Thompson.
Looking ahead to FETC© 2023, he says he will be discussing how to build a cohesive and successful team.
“You used to start a staff meeting with ‘agenda item one, two, three and four,'” says Thompson. “Now you start your agenda item with ‘How are you doing? How’s the family?’ Because it’s the whole person. You have to bake the whole person into that thing. It’s beneficial. Why? Because we spend more hours in this building than we do at home.”
By taking this approach, he says it’s not only made him and his team closer, but they’re a family now.