Mar 05 2024

Three Keys for Creating Massive Change in K–12, Even with Small Tech Teams

How one school district broke through the noise to make multiple high-tech changes in record time.

Although K–12 education is not known for being a major disrupter, we are making profound changes that will have a ripple effect for years to come. When I joined Mt. Diablo Unified School District as director of technology and innovation during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had a lot of needs. But our most immediate priority was getting devices to students to ensure learning continuity.

However, properly equipping our 29,000 students was only one part of the puzzle. To better support our teachers and students, our schools also needed new instructional technology, network and data center upgrades, and new surveillance cameras, along with new clocks, bells and more. Frankly, our small team of 41 IT staff could not handle these large-scale projects by itself.

That meant challenging some previously tried-and-true processes that could not facilitate a modern learning environment. Here are some of the lessons we learned during our digital transformation journey.

Click the banner to learn how partners can help improve the management of your device ecosystem.

Build Communication into Your Comprehensive Technology Plan

In HolonIQ’s 2023 survey results on digital transformation in K–12, 65 percent of K–12 school leaders saw the integration of digital resources as critical to the future of K–12 education. At Mt. Diablo USD, we agreed, which is why we knew we had to get in front of technological changes and anticipate how those changes would impact our end users. That meant we needed to take an enterprise approach to shoring up our IT infrastructure.

First, we built a comprehensive, long-range technology plan. I often hear that people don’t like change. That’s not been my experience. People just don’t like when changes are done to them. So, before we even created a technology plan, we involved teachers, principals, students and other partners in critical conversations ahead of those changes.

DIG DEEPER: Strategic communication can support technology investments.

Make Room for Digital Equity and Standardization

Because we were really focused on serving the needs of all of our students, it was important to use an equity lens when making technology decisions. So, we often asked, “Why is this tool or resource right for some students and not others?”

With audiovisual technology, in particular, schools previously funded and selected their own devices, which meant district IT would have to support a variety of technologies.

By standardizing on one piece of instructional tech such as a Promethean board or one type of Chromebook for all students, we could address digital equity, streamline our purchases across schools and create a sustainable model that could continue into the future.


The percentage of surveyed schools that say they have a high level of digital maturity

Source:, “K12 Digital Transformation - 2023 Survey: Toward a hybrid future for K12 learning and teaching,” April 6, 2023

Carefully Select Your Technology Partners

Over the past three years, we’ve made a lot of technological progress thanks to support from a variety of internal partners. However, we would not have been able to make these moves as quickly if we had to do it all internally.

We would have had to research, purchase, deploy and configure all the tech and manage vendor bid processes, all while providing end-user support. Without a trusted partner, it could have taken many years for us to accomplish some of our digital upgrades; instead, in some cases, it took only months.

Working with a partner took a lot off our plates. CDW helped us streamline a lot of decisions and provided us with expertise and capacity that we wouldn’t necessarily have in house. Our partnership with CDW removed a lot of noise for us so we could focus on the core business of our district — teaching our students.

RELATED: Swipe these three powerful ideas from tech companies for K–12.

One of the biggest time sinks for us was managing multiple vendor bid processes rather than supporting staff and students and managing IT projects. For us, centralizing our procurement process was the answer, as it gave us a close working relationship with a single partner that could help us make step-by-step plans to meet our long-term technology goals.

CDW also helped us make sure we secured technology that our internal team could easily manage. We do not have the internal capacity to manage every IT challenge, so it made sense for us to work with an external partner on some key responsibilities, such as managed detection and response.

Yes, change can be hard, especially in K–12. But once we let go of some sacred cows and focused on meeting student needs, we found a better way.

Antonio_Diaz/Getty Images

Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.