Melissa Tebbenkamp remains focused on student data privacy in her Missouri district

After earning a national distinction for its commitment to privacy and security, Raytown Quality Schools’ Melissa Tebbenkamp continues to look for new and better ways to protect student data.

Tebbenkamp, director of instructional technology for Raytown Schools, clearly has a passion for student data privacy matters. Her efforts to make data privacy a priority for the district eventually helped make the district one of the first to earn the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) Seal last fall.

But Tebbenkamp’s work is far from finished, she told EdScoop in a recent interview. “We continue to focus on student data privacy,” she said. “That’s been a big initiative for us over the past few years, and it’s always a top priority.”

So, how do they do it?

For one, the district’s staff of about 30 IT specialists adheres to the suggestions outlined in CoSN’s privacy protection toolkit , which is filled with explainers on federal privacy laws and step-by-step guides to handing over student information.

“That guidance and how we apply that to what we do every day is essential for us to be able to keep our students’ data safe,” said Tebbenkamp, whose team supports 9,000 students and 1,400 staff in the district.

View more of EdScoop’s interviews with innovative school CIOs.

It also took a great deal of hard work and time, she said. “We … really wanted to have a cultural change and not just a policy change for data privacy,” Tebbenkamp said, adding that staff training, close attention to detail and district-wide support for each project was imperative.

As Raytown shifts its focus toward other key initiatives, like its one-to-one program and adopting cloud computing, student data privacy and security will remain a constant theme, she said.

Raytown recently launched a one-to-one program for its 2nd through 10th grade students. Next year, they’ll expand to 11th grade, and the year after that, they’ll provide devices to 12th grade students too.

Like schools districts nationwide, Raytown’s IT specialists have also spent a lot of time trying to understand where the cloud fits into its school system.

“Cloud computing is inevitable,” Tebbenkamp said. “We use it every day, … we’re using it in education. And we’re going to continue to grow in the use of it. So understanding what that means to us – the value to us, but also the risks we take and how to mitigate those risks — [is] very important for us to be able to make the right decisions for our district.”