If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than the Encinitas Union School District. It’s here that you’ll find a ‘dynamic duo’ of collaborative forces housed within their Information Technology and Educational Services Departments. The source of that leadership can be summed up through the friendship, the bond, and the close collaboration of Directors Nathan Short and Glen Warren.
Mr. Short and Mr. Warren both work in separate departments, one in Information Technology and the other in Educational Technology, in what would normally be siloed and isolated environments. However, that is not the case in Encinitas, as they meet on a regular basis to brainstorm and work to improve every operating condition of any scale in their District with the goal of improving a love of learning on every level, from student to teacher to all staff members. It’s here that you won’t just find “best practices” but “NEXT Practices”.
But what are “next” practices? As an influential business leader in tech, how can you surpass what would be considered “best practice”? Well, by expanding your scope and breaking down siloed departmental boundaries. This can allow for far more creative solutions, as well as far-reaching alternative applications of solutions than you may have previously thought.
How do you get to that point, you might ask? Well, it starts with common goals. It is finding that common ground and realizing that your colleagues are all working for the betterment of your company. Cross-collaboration opens so many doorways, and it doesn’t stop with Educational Services and Information Technology.
Short and Warren commonly reach out to Student Services, Special Education, Human Resources, and Maintenance and Grounds Departments. “Extraordinary Customer Service” is a theme that can cross all departmental boundaries, and in the Encinitas Union School District, it shows, as they are recognized on a national level.
Rising to Challenges
Prior to the pandemic, Short and Warren were already in the process of acquiring WiFi hotspots in an effort to take the District’s already fantastic one-to-one (one device per child) technology program to a level of equity that would provide 100% Internet connectivity for every child when away from school. When the pandemic hit, never was this more relevant, as all classes shifted to streaming online, whether that child was homeless or not. That shift meant providing classroom support that extended beyond the classroom, extending the coverage footprint 30-fold as every child’s location, whether it be a homeless shelter, a public park or library, a car, or a bedroom. All this became the new classroom that needed connectivity.
With the help of a superb network of teachers, rapidly trained in the new world of streaming video and cloud-based file services, as well as online web-help desk ticket tools, any problem could be triaged. Whether it was reported up from parent or student to teacher, to various tiers of technical support, all the way to the director level, every member played a part in improving one of the most challenging times for education.
That challenge is even greater when special needs and special education come into play.
Using Technology to Empower Students
Short and Warren have worked hard to build relationships with the Student Services Special Education Department and NCCSE, the North County Coastal Consortium for Special Education, to modernize outdated solutions with the latest in technology. Whether that is taking closed-circuit television assistive technology solutions for the visually impaired and downsizing them from something the size of a shopping cart to a solution that can discretely fit in the palm of a student’s hand, helping that student feel so much more at home in the classroom. Or putting together a solution for many of the “locked-in” categories of syndromes with little to no motor function, demonstrating the capability of a student with the aid of eye-tracking cameras and software, so that a child that has never been able to communicate a word in their life could begin speaking sentences with the aid of technology that tracked their pupils, within days. This demonstrated the worthwhile perseverance of countless special education teachers, who continued to teach a student that they could not be sure was absorbing their lessons. It yielded a return on investment that brings tears to everyone’s eyes, giving a child who could not communicate a voice.
Towards Betterment of Future Generations
The duo has spoken together at several conferences and seminars, including the San Diego Equity Conference, CETPA/CITE, SDCOE, and more. They’ve both won a wall full of awards over the years, including San Diego Top Tech Exec, Classroom of the Future Innovative Educator Award, CUE Gold Disc Award, and many more. They continue to pour their hearts into their work, for the betterment of future generations.