The Ceres Unified School District (CUSD) recently requested a comprehensive review from the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT). Although the CUSD is not in the midst of a fiscal crisis, we have a new forward thinking Superintendent and two out of our three Assistant Superintendents have announced their plans to retire effective June 30, 2002. As a result, we are poised for significant change that we can leverage to increase efficiencies.
As the Supervisor of Technology for the district, I have experience with serious reviews as part of my past service with NASA. Based on my experience, I believe that an in-depth review is an extremely effective method to achieve management and operational improvements. Although the review process itself can be a disruption in your staffsí ability to perform daily duties and responsibilities, the results can validate successes and point out opportunities for improvement.
For the technology component of the CUSD review, FCMAT contracted with other K-12 technologists and other specialists to join the review team. The result was a lot of brainstorming by people that I would consider my colleagues on the problems that my district and department was facing. These outside reviewers can take a fresh look at issues and propose solutions to barriers that may not have occurred to us.
What we did:
∑†† Encouraged staff to explain problems as they saw them. My thinking was that FCMAT canít help us if they donít know the issues that we are dealing with.
∑†† Explained our vision so that FCMAT could validate our vision or help us develop a more appropriate vision for a district with our level of funding.
∑†† Asked for sources of technical information so that we could educate ourselves. We, like many K-12 technical folks, have little time for research. FCMAT research sources will save us time.
∑†† Articulated our priorities so that FCMAT could include them in their recommendations or suggest changes in priorities.
What we wish we had done differently:
∑†† We should have taken more time to clearly articulate what we think we are doing well. We did not prepare this ahead of time so it was hard to think of it on the fly. In view of the fact that the FCMAT report will go to our school board, it would be beneficial to make FCMAT aware of our successes.
∑†† We should have determined before the review what level of detail FCMAT wanted. We were not sure during the review if we would benefit from sharing more detailed examples of successes and barriers, or if we should just communicate on a higher conceptual level.
What we would like to gain from our FCMAT review:
∑†† Verification that our vision is appropriate for a school district with our level of funding and demographics. If our vision is found to not be appropriate, we want a clear understanding of what our vision should include.
∑†† Clear recommendations for overcoming our barriers. These recommendations need to take into consideration our districtís level of funding.
∑†† Clear articulation of technology priorities based on the in depth FCMAT analysis of our district. The FCMAT priorities should take into account the recently approved district strategic plan. FCMAT priorities
††† will either validate our own priorities or will help us refine and reorganize them. By establishing clear priorities, we hope to use our limited budget resources more effectively.
A FCMAT review is a powerful process for improvement. A team of outside reviewers can clearly evaluate successes and barriers. They bring with them experience without the frustrations and political limitations that all of us face within our own organizations. The result of the review can be used to increase efficiencies, improve support for technology initiatives, and help move us forward to future successes.
Supervisor, Technology and Media Services
Ceres Unified School District