Revolutionary CTO Course Gives School Leaders Command Over Technology

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Superintendents and educational technology directors are facing increasing challenges and responsibilities in our schools. As the lines between traditional services, innovative initiatives, and even departmental duties begin to blur, senior leadership must be able to manage the constantly expanding role of IT within their Local Education Agency (LEA), protect their LEA from ever-increasing security threats, and keep up with the pace of new technology. North Carolina is leading the nation through a new certification program that gives school leaders the necessary knowledge, skills, and confidence to effectively use technology in our school districts.

Nearly 70 school leaders from across the state are participating in the Certified Educational Chief Technology Officers (CeCTO) Certification Program offered through a partnership between the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), UNC School of Government's Center for Public Technology, and MCNC.

This innovative program features two components – one for superintendents and one for technology directors.

Superintendents will participate in the “Leaders for the 21st Century” Certification Program – a 20-hour instructional program. At the kick-off meeting in February, they joined their technology directors to discuss the role of transformational leadership in K-12 education. This will be followed by an additional session in September and conclude with a second joint meeting joining technology directors to review best practices created by the technology directors during their course of study.

New Certification Program is More Than Just IT

School technology directors will participate in the CeCTO Certification Program – a 240-hour instructional course. This 10-month track establishes the core competencies needed for assessing and addressing some of the most critical issues facing IT leaders in school systems. The purpose is to equip school leaders with the tools to help them manage and improve organizational technology within their LEA as well as address IT governance, project and risk management, legal and regulatory issues, and much more. This program will use a variety of instructional methodologies, including face-to-face sessions, synchronous online sessions, and asynchronous online sessions as teaching tools that will help technology directors evaluate various instructional technologies.

UNC School of Government’s Center for Public Technology Director Shannon Tufts said the Center for Public Technology is thrilled to offer one of the nation's first technology-centered certification programs for North Carolina K-12 superintendents and technology directors. "I can't imagine not doing this," said Tufts. "These programs will provide invaluable education and training to help superintendents and technology officers make strategic investments in technologies to enhance students' learning and engagement in their education.”

In 2004, UNC School of Government’s Center for Public Technology began offering a 10-month Certified Government CIO Program that educates public CIOs and IT directors in their evolving roles as leaders. This course has trained more than 300 IT professionals from all government levels and was the nation’s first government CIO certification program designed to elevate the strategic value of state and local government IT professionals. And, because of its success, the CeCTO program was launched to give IT professionals working in education similar opportunities to build on the leadership and communication skills they need to make strategic IT business decisions, not just to teach them technology tools.

NCDPI Chief Information Officer Peter Asmar is excited to be a partner in this inaugural professional development opportunity adding that technology is an integral component of a 21st century education. “District leaders need specific knowledge and skills to ensure that they are using technology in the most effective and productive ways possible," said Asmar.

"While the program is geared toward technology issues, it’s more than that – it’s about leadership," added Joe Freddoso, MCNC President and CEO. “MCNC is pleased to support this effort because the vision to incorporate effective change management using technology systems, services, and strategies to give an LEA the flexibility for future innovation. This program will equip school leaders with the tools and knowledge necessary to manage and improve their LEA’s technology assets that ultimately prepares our students to successfully learn and compete.” Through lectures, case studies and examples, participants will examine specific issues and draw on each other's experience to provide both theoretical and practical applied knowledge to the challenges our school leaders face daily. Instruction began Feb. 9 and concludes with a graduation ceremony on Nov. 17.