Apr 06 2017

CoSN 2017: Santa Ana Unified School District Keeps the Promise to Go Digital

The California district tells its story of coaching toward technology innovation.

Ricardo Enz, director of the technology innovation services department at Santa Ana Unified School District, recently worked to deploy 45,000 devices to 56,000 students in the seventh-largest school district in California.

When that was happening, he wasn’t afraid to admit his team needed a little extra help.

“We have an outstanding network, and we’re very proud of that,” Enz said during a Wednesday CoSN session on making a successful and efficient digital transformation. “Our focus is always access for all. We needed help to get the word out.”

Ricardo Enz, the director of the technology innovation services department at Santa Ana Unified School District, tells the story of the district's digitization to CoSN attendees. Photo by Jena Passut.

Enz’s team employed the services of Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization authorized by Congress to work with educators to launch and run successful education technology programs. “It was the right thing at the right time with the right emphasis,” Enz said about the yearlong coaching commitment.

Digital Promise provides mentors who go to schools and share strategies based on the Digital Promise framework. Coaches are leaders from other districts who have implemented their own digital strategies.

“There are always communication breakdowns in any district,” says Cindy Elsberry, Digital Promise program director for leadership coaching. “By being there onsite, we can detect any barriers that exist. Our sole purpose is to promote digital integration in school districts across the country. We’ve been there. We tell them the good, the bad and the ugly, and the mistakes we’ve made. It’s the only onsite digital coaching that is out there for leadership coaching.”

Enz says that’s what attracted him to the Digital Promise program.

“They built trust with us,” he said. “They’re not just consultants. They’re practitioners. They’re in their districts. They’ve been doing it a little bit longer.”

When Digital Promise coaches come to a district, they meet with everyone who is affected by devices coming into a school — administrators, principals, teachers, IT professionals, students and parents.

“We needed everyone on board with access for all,” Enz said. “They helped us establish a vision and gave us an opportunity for stakeholder engagement. It helped us identify issues early and challenge them. It also really built a sense of trust with the students, community and parents. We received a lot of positive feedback asking us when the coaches are coming back.”

“The process necessitates having a deeper involvement,” said Stan Gorbatkin, assistant superintendent for technology services at Indian Prairie School District 204 in Illinois, who serves as a coach for Digital Promise.

Gorbatkin admitted the time commitment for Digital Promise coaching may seem daunting at first.

“If this is one of the vision statements about what your district is doing, then reapply resources toward it,” he said. “You have to make it a priority.”

Gorbatkin suggested looking for allies who might be on board with taking the plunge and aligning with them to ask for help.

“A true leader is the person who forms the team,” he said.

EdTech is covering CoSN 2017, including articles on spotlight sessions, keynotes and the pulse on social media. Keep up to date on all of our coverage by visiting our CoSN 2017 conference page.