North Carolina welcomes 24 new CeCTOs

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Innovative program has added 58 Certified educational Chief Technology Officers statewide in two years

A group of CeCTOs and Leaders for the 21st Century attended this year’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 9. (not all 2011 graduates are pictured)

Twenty-one school technology directors in North Carolina along with three representatives from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) have successfully completed the 2011 Certified educational Chief Technology Officer (CeCTO) program offered through a partnership between NCDPI, UNC School of Government’s Center for Public Technology, and MCNC. Now that the program has finished its second year, North Carolina has a total of 58 CeCTOs currently in action throughout the state.

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson commended this year’s graduates on the importance of participating in this course during a graduation ceremony on Nov. 9. She said public education should not be demolished, but rather remodeled; comparing the process to a GPS whereby its usefulness is based on a starting point and a destination. Drawing parallels with a GPS, Atkinson explained that students should be helped back on track if they make a wrong turn, and that there are multiple ways to get to a destination.

“Students need options and technology can help provide the support to personalize education. The CeCTO graduates are uniquely positioned to help develop instructional improvement systems to plot success and help personalize education for every child." --June Atkinson North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction

“Students need options and technology can help provide the support to personalize education,” stated Atkinson. “The CeCTO graduates are uniquely positioned to help develop instructional improvement systems to plot success and help personalize education for every child.”

CeCTO is one of the nation’s first technology-centered certification programs for educators and features two components – one for superintendents and one for technology directors.

Superintendents participate in the “Leaders for the 21st Century” program – a 20-hour instructional course supplemented with required collaborative sessions with CeCTO candidates. Thirteen superintendents completed the course this year. Technology officers participate in 240 hours of instruction spanning from February through November. This 10-month track helps establish the core competencies needed for both roles in assessing and addressing some of the most critical issues facing IT leaders in school systems today.

Tom Frye of Harnett County Schools is the first to graduate as a CeCTO and now as a Leader for the 21st Century. Added Frye, “this really has been a sustained networking activity that has paid dividends for me and for many others participating in the class.”

The CeCTO program was added in 2010 as a new offering in the nationally-acclaimed Certified Government Chief Information Officers (CGCIO) series, which was pioneered by the UNC School of Government’s Center for Public Technology. The CGCIO program started in 2005 and was one of the first of its kind in the nation and has successfully graduated more than 400 public sector IT professionals across the country.

Instruction for the CeCTO course covers topics such as strategic technology planning, communications, project management, emerging trends, risk assessment and management, acquisition management, change management, leadership, security, legal issues, and financial trends. UNC School of Government’s Center for Public Technology Director Shannon Tufts provided instruction and said the program provides invaluable education and training for superintendents and technology officers. Roanoke Rapids Graded School District CeCTO Mark Kuchenbrod agreed.

“School administrators play a key role in the quality of education within the school district. School districts without strong leaders leave students at a disadvantage,” said Kuchenbrod. “Thank you to UNC School of Government, NCDPI, and MCNC for this program. I am glad that I was able to pursue this educational opportunity to further myself in becoming a stronger leader. “

Jane Finch, CeCTO for Nash-Rocky Mount Public School System, called the course “the most awesome class in my education career,” adding that “the networking and speakers have been great. Shannon and Maurice (Ferrell) have been wonderful. They will help you out even when you aren’t in class. The only regret is that level two is not in place. I just want more.”

The overall reaction from participants in 2010 and this year has been positive, and most said they hope to see a refresher course offered or a continuation of the program in the years to come. Organizers did say they are exploring options for a second level part of the program or to offer additional courses as more leaders from more school districts are becoming interested and the number of charter schools grows across the state.

“School administrators play a key role in the quality of education within the school district. School districts without strong leaders leave students at a disadvantage. Thank you to UNC School of Government, NCDPI, and MCNC for this program. I am glad that I was able to pursue this educational opportunity to further myself in becoming a stronger leader."
--Mark Kuchenbrod
Roanoke Rapids Graded School District

Superintendents and technology directors face unique challenges today. As the world becomes an increasingly digital society, the nation’s schools also are entering a new era of accountability. This digital evolution has changed our expectations of school leaders. Technology is an integral component of a 21st century education, and requires school leaders to possess the knowledge and skills to ensure they are using technology in the most effective and productive ways possible. The CeCTO program was created for that reason.

“The class has been excellent,” commented Georgia Maner, supervisor for assessment, advanced learners and iTech for Anson County Schools. “I have a different perspective from some of my colleagues since I have worked as a teacher and in business and industry. There were a broad range of topics … that were timely, informative, and extremely interesting. The presentations were thoughtful with a wide variety of interesting and knowledgeable speakers.”

North Carolina is leading the nation by providing a model that articulates the value technology directors and superintendents bring to the table in the 21st century. As Marc Prensky, internationally-acclaimed speaker and writer noted in this year’s very first class, “technology is disposable, but the skills needed to operate it are not. Teachers are our best tool, but they need to be 21st century tools as well. Technology’s role is to support pedagogy. Before technology can help learning, we have to change the pedagogy.”