These IT Leader spotlights highlight how innovative edtech and IT leaders are influencing teaching and learning across the nation.

CoSN IT Leader Spotlight: Don Wolff

Recipients of CoSN's Impact 30 Awards, selected for the differences they're making in the nation's schools, offer insights on edtech and IT innovations

In partnership with CoSN, eSchool News is highlighting the innovative and dedicated work of IT leaders in school districts across the country.

This month, the spotlight is on Don Wolff, Chief Technology Officer in Oregon’s Portland Public Schools.

1. What is your biggest IT challenge today?

The obvious challenge is cybersecurity; that is a beast of a challenge we are all struggling with. Tangential to cybersecurity is the deployment of applications, including the procurement process, which includes ensuring vendors are protecting the data contained in the applications, as well as supporting interoperability standards to make the deployment and rostering seamless, secure, and usable.

2. What project, initiative, or accomplishment are you most proud of?

Currently, I am most proud of our investment in cloud-based solutions. We have had our ERP in the cloud for over 5 years and we continue to leverage the expertise, ease of expansion/contraction, and leading-edge technologies to support the critical work that takes place in our classrooms.

3. What are your top 3 priorities over the next few years?

First and foremost will be a Business Modernization effort, which will center around a refresh of our 20-year-old ERP system. Being able to modernize our business practices will support efficiencies in overall operations, while supporting our efforts to retain staff, as well as provide meaningful insights and reporting to the strategic priorities and programs being delivered in the district. Along with this will be a deep dive into developing and refreshing of a data governance model to support this work. And as always, we will be focusing on elevating our cybersecurity profile to protect our students and staff as much as we are able to in the face of aggressive attacks on public K-12 institutions.

4. Technology evolves at such a high rate—what are some of the school IT innovations you see coming down the pipeline, and which are you most excited for?

I’m very excited about the promise of AI to help automate redundant and repetitive processes around support, deployment, and data analysis. When deployed properly and with sufficient safeguards, AI has the potential to streamline operations and make more human resources available to focus on two critical areas: supporting the humanistic processes required for an effective teaching and learning environment, and directly enhancing student education.

5. What advice would you give to other school IT leaders and school IT teams?

The best thing we can do, for those whose jobs are focused on technology, is to focus on the people! Education is a social endeavor that requires that the focus is on the people we support, teach, work with, and lead. In all things be kind!

For more news on IT leadership and innovation, visit eSN’s IT Leadership page.

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