Thursday, May 10, 2007

Job Shadowing - Dr. Bonnie Ward

My long term leadership goal is to eventually be a director of technology in a school system. So it was a natural choice to shadow Dr. Bonnie Ward, the Executive Director of Technology Services.

I met Dr. Ward in her office at 8:00am and she was checking her email. She showed me her calendar for the day and there were several meeting and appointments for her to keep. The first item for the day was a meeting to discuss the network migration status. FCPS is in the midst of upgrading their network operating system from Novell to Microsoft Windows 2003. The meeting consisted of progress reports and discussion of the issues that are creeping up as the schools are migrated. I was asked my opinion of how students passwords should be initially set. The team was proposing an idea of incorporating the birthday and part of their name and then forcing the student to change their password. I suggested sticking with the student ID since students already know that number and then if they wanted students to be forced to change it, then they could.

After the meeting, Dr. Ward went back into her office and called the facilities manager to discuss the different codes required when purchasing something through the procurement system. She also showed me her major idea for next school year. She was going to purchase media carts for schools to be used as presenter station. TJ was opened in 2000 with media carts in each classroom. Unfortunately, there was no money to maintain the carts and they projector bulbs cost $400 each. They have begun to break and cost over $1400 to replace. So I was excited to see that TJ would get 10 new carts. I asked if we could simply get money to replace the aging components since we have most of the pieces. She said it was a good idea and would consider it.

She confirmed a few other details with other people and then sent a revised budget to the facilities manager. Someone popped by to request a meeting to discuss a personnel matter at 10:30. In the mean time she checked the meeting minutes from the morning.

When it was 10:30, we decided to meet at 11:00 since the personnel matter was sensitive and not appropriate for me to observe. I took the time to get a soda and use the restroom. Since I was familiar with many of the people at the Hayward Complex I took the time to say hello to a few before reuniting with Dr. Ward.

Dr. Ward had a lunch appointment with the CIO from FCC about a Girls in IT program. Dr. Ward asked me to tag along and offer my insight. At the lunch we discussed ways to get more females into a predominantly male field. The discussion was good but I feet as if I could have contributed more. My take was that girls were just as likely to play video games as boys up until age 13. I suggested a greater focus on the middle school girls to begin the grooming process to get high school aged girls into the program at FCC.

We returned to Dr. Ward's office and she checked her email again. She had to admonish a teacher who was using FCPS email to promote her home business. That was a clear violation of the Acceptable Use Policy. We chatted for a while until it was time for the BOE Planning meeting. Dr. Ward attends every planning meeting to keep up to date with policy decisions and to answer any technology questions the board members may have.

The meeting centered around the "Other Post Employment Benefits" which is now required of county agencies. The school system now needs to cover the costs of employees who have left FCPS and qualify for retirement benefits such as health care and life insurance. The discussion centered around how best to absorb the extra cost involved in picking up the tab for this.

I was also introduced to a reporter from the Frederick Gazette. Dr. Ward recommended to the reporter that I would be a good contact for technology ideas. That was a very flattering compliment from an Executive Director.

The meeting continued and Dr. Ward eventually had to leave for an appointment unrelated to school. The experience overall was pretty eye opening. A director certainly has a busy schedule and must juggle many issues at once. The schedule can be very fluid and must able to be flexible and adapt to the changing environment. Directors must be proactive and build good relationships with all stake holders both within the school system and outside the school system. Normally I am able to foster good relationships when the colleague makes the first move. A skill I will need to improve upon is making first contact and forging a positive relationship. I have been working on that lately as illustrated with the business partnerships I have created over the last couple years. Hopefully I can continue to refine those skills as I move into positions with more responsibilities.

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