San Francisco schools CTO outlines her top priorities

With 57,000 students spread across 130 campuses and another 9,500 educators and staff to support, Melissa Dodd and her team of 80 edtech specialists are never at a loss for projects.

But Dodd is clear-minded about where her she and her team are headed, thanks in part to the digital plan that now guides her department’s efforts.

Dodd, who serves as chief technology officer at San Francisco Unified School District, talked about some of the highlights of the district’s plan during an interview with EdScoop at the Consortium of School Networking’s annual conference for school IT chiefs . She also discussed her outlook on the impact cloud computing will play in the district’s IT operations.

The foundations of SFUSD’s edtech initiatives were laid over the past year when the district moved all 9,500 of its educators and staff to Google’s unified communications and collaboration platform.

“It was a huge effort — in a couple of months, we got [every staff member] on board,” she said. “So now when we look at other learning tools and applications, they need to be able to work with Google,” she said.

But that makes the process of acquiring and managing applications simpler. And it adds “leverage” and “coherence to our work by having a much more integrated approach to our platforms,” she said.

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

Dodd said she’s focusing her efforts now on three core areas: redefining the classroom experience for students and teachers; developing critical systems and tools for classrooms and central operations; and building a robust infrastructure to support all those initiatives.

“We’ve been moving a number of our applications to the cloud over the last couple of years,” she told EdScoop. “For a school district that needs to maintain 24/7 [IT] service, the cloud has been a great solution.” But she also sees the cloud as the next step in plans to upgrade the district’s human capital management system.

As a CTO in the world of K-12 education, Dodd said one of her biggest challenges “is the number of issues that we’re addressing at the same time” as well as the diversity of needs across the district’s schools and communities.

“What’s needed for our elementary schools is different from the needs of our high schools and high school students,” she said.

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