So my first day back to school was a wee bit stressful. How was yours? I have to admit that many of the day one problems were at least indirectly my fault, but most could have been solved with adequate preparation time (which of course means more money).
Here are some lessons learned:
Don't trust vendors and contractors.
Nobody knows your data, requirements, and systems as well as you do. Outsourcing can be a real time and money saver, but nothing can replace in-house support, or, at least, thorough user acceptance testing. I say this for several reasons, but most importantly because I hastily accepted a student scheduling report created at the last minute by a contracting group that supports our SMS. Unfortunately, this seemingly simple report distributed to all students the first morning of school and detailing their schedules, homerooms, and locker numbers was attached to an old copy of our student database. Thus, most of the student scheduling changes that took place over the summer (including some sweeping changes for new students and special education teams) were not reflected in the reports. Oops.
Put together a team of experienced cross-functional staff for summer work.
You can't operate in a vacuum and while late nights with nothing but coffee and a computer to keep you company work quite nicely for us Ed Tech geeks, our expertise must lie with IT, not with the functions of guidance, principals, teachers, and other administrators. All of these school staff need to work together in the off season to optimize schedules, form budgets, etc.
Fund staff to work throughout the summer.
Guidance, IT, administration, and other decision-makers all need to be available to form those above mentioned teams and work effectively when no students are around to distract from IT and administrative efforts. Ensure that per diem funds are available to bring in specialists (e.g., SPED) and department heads when additional team members become critical.
Coordinate summer maintenance of computer systems with guidance and administrative needs.
Our guidance department is only funded to work during a small window during the summer; unfortunately, necessary maintenance to our student managment system and network conincided with several days of that window, limiting their effectiveness and my availability for teamwork as noted above.
Finish as much infrastructure and maintenance work as early in the summer as possible.
This allows focus the focus in August to be on database and student managment issues, as well as specific preparation for the fall.
Train! Train! Train!
Prepare documentation and training materials for your teachers before day 1; organize professional development prior to the first student day if possible to get teachers and staff spun up on their technology tools, allowing them to focus on teaching from the moment students walk through the door.
Teachers forget everything about their computer systems over the summer.
Reset all passwords and give them very simple, straightforward documentation for accessing all systems.
Make sure that teacher systems are ready to go.
It's easy to get caught up in a variety of projects over the summer, but your focus must be on your end users.
For those of you who start next week, by the way, good luck. For those of you already running, well, a 3-day weekend is almost here - Cheers!