In Their Words: The value of CeCTO

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What is it? What do people think about it? Why is it important?

We are in a transformational era of education. Superintendents and educational technology directors are facing increasing challenges and responsibilities in this era. As the lines between traditional functional services and departments begin to blur, senior and IT leadership are charged with managing the constantly expanding role for IT within their school district, protecting their schools from ever-increasing security threats, and keeping up with the pace of new technology. In light of these changes, the Certified Educational Chief Technology Officer (CeCTO) program was created to offer support through this challenging and exciting era.

Offered through a partnership between the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, UNC School of Government’s Center for Public Technology and MCNC, CeCTO is one of the nation’s first technology-centered certification programs for educators.

The program features two components – one designed for superintendents and the other for technology directors. Superintendents participate in the “Leaders for the 21st Century” track – a 20-hour instructional course supplemented with required collaborative sessions with CeCTO candidates. Technology directors participate in 240 hours of instruction.

This 10-month program helps establish the core competencies IT leaders need in today’s education environment. Many look to gain additional knowledge and skills to ensure they are using technology in the most effective and productive ways possible in their schools and school districts while others seek better proficiencies in managing the constantly expanding role for IT in the educational landscape, protecting their enterprise from ever-increasing security threats, keeping up with the pace of new technology and its use in education, organizational transformation, IT governance, project and risk management, and legal and regulatory issues.

Instruction provides invaluable education and training for superintendents and technology directors that can’t be found anywhere else in the country. The program gives school administrators the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence to effectively use and manage technology in schools for the 21st century.

Since 2010, approximately 83 CeCTOs and Leaders of the 21st Century have been added in North Carolina schools. The program kicked off its fourth year in February with 23 candidates participating in this year’s course. CEUs also will be awarded for participation. The overall reaction from participants this year and in years past remains positive, and most who complete the program hope to see a refresher course or a continuation of the program in the years to come. Read from CeCTO alumni about how the program has helped their school district.

If you’re interested in learning more or participating in a future CeCTO course, please contact Barry Pace at the N.C. Carolina Department of Public Instruction or Maurice Ferrell at UNC School of Government’s Center for Public Technology.


Jeff Pittman

Harnett County Schools CeCTO Class of 2011

I decided to participate in this program because I thought it would be extremely beneficial – especially as a new technology director – and felt the experience would help in charting the right path for our technology department. Our former technology director (who is now our superintendent) had completed the program and encouraged my participation. I can honestly say things learned through CeCTO are applied every single day. The knowledge gained has guided and shaped decisions on a daily basis. I have said many times that one of the strengths of this program is the ability of the instructors to facilitate and guide the conversations among and between the participants. The instructors would initiate the conversations, but then were willing to step back and allow open discussion. Those conversations with my colleagues moved the topics from theoretical to practical, and the results were immediately applicable in the day-to-day aspect of the job.

Our district was the first to deploy the use of SAFARI Montage. Using the SAFARI Montage system to develop and integrate multimedia material has been a nice addition to our teachers’ toolkits. The expertise and help from ITS and MCNC made possible all of the things we have accomplished in our district. Working with service providers and these two groups has allowed the connectivity issues we once had to become a thing of the past. As we continue adding devices and the dependence on connectivity increases, network health will remain a top focus. Having their expertise to assist us will be integral to our success.

Jane Finch

Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools CeCTO Class of 2011

The knowledge I gained from CeCTO has been tremendous. I use it every day in my job. I participated in the program for several reasons: to become certified, to gain as much knowledge as possible, and to network with other technology officers.

One challenge we have had is bandwidth, as we had to increase it due to the number of devices. The CeCTO program gave me the resources I needed to handle an issue of this size. Connectivity has played a tremendous role in our success, and CeCTO played an important role in getting me ready to help the district reach its technology goals. We use technology in so many ways. For instance, we are now using Google Hangouts to interview candidates in other states. We also live stream all of our graduations and other events so people who cannot attend can watch from home. The biggest trend in our district right now is 1:1, and CeCTO has aided in this work. I also feel that the law sessions helped a lot. It makes me smile when I visit a school and see how the technology is being integrated. It never has been about the devices being used, it’s about instruction. I love watching the teachers make it happen.

The CeCTO program was incredible. I learned so much about so many topics. I wish that a Level 2 class would be offered in the future. The knowledge gained from this experience has helped me be successful in my role as the Chief Technology Officer.

Phil Decker

Lenoir County Public Schools CeCTO Class of 2010

This was an opportunity to learn about future technology challenges, the legal ramifications of using social media in the school system, and the opportunity to network with my fellow CTOs in the state. My expectation was to show that our school district faced many of the same challenges as others in the state. It was beneficial to see that we all faced those same challenges with reduced funding and personnel, but increasing technology needs. One of the outcomes was that we as a group discussed these issues and shared possible solutions to the challenges.

The biggest trend we are facing is how to provide engaging instruction to each student no matter what grade level. Right now, providing a device for every student does not appear to be financially possible. We are investigating BYOD, but that also has a myriad set of challenges. The School Connectivity Initiative allowed us to think about financing devices and how to implement BYOD without having to be concerned with how to pay for increased bandwidth. The CeCTO program helped me see the overall factors which affect our technology goals. Prior to the course, I tended to focus more on our district’s technology infrastructure. The focus on managing personnel, generational differences, and knowing the state’s contracting and purchasing laws and procedures was beneficial along with gaining the input from other CTOs during the course.

I would highly recommend this program. There is no other course I am aware of that will prepare and coach a CTO like this one.

Nelle Hyatt

Edenton-Chowan Schools CeCTO Class of 2010

The experience of CeCTO was the best professional development course I had ever attended. Well researched and prepared, the sessions were molded according to the need of each group. The program has provided valuable contacts throughout the state as we begin implementation of our 1:1, and also provided a broad network of professionals to help in a number of areas in our technology planning. The classes presented a variety of new ideas for North Carolina schools, with participants able to discuss the pros and cons of what works and what does not work well. Since CeCTO, Edenton-Chowan Schools has purchased an email archiver to preserve at least five years of email from our district. More knowledge concerning E-Rate remains helpful in filing each year. Also, various E-Rate experts presented during our sessions, providing not only rules and procedures but contacts we could use as advisors during each filing window. The connectivity is critical for our district as in all school districts. All areas of the district need access, and being on the state network at no charge to the schools allows districts to use funding for more devices desperately needed in the hands of the students.

I love my job! Every day is different, and working with technology requires problem solving skills and analytical skills to determine which technologies work best in a classroom. While there are times that are stressful as with every job, working with technology for the benefit of students allows us to prepare our kids for the 21st century careers that have yet to be created by introducing them to various technologies.

To learn more about the CeCTO program and its history, please visit