Sarah Patanroi, Business Systems Analyst for Palo Alto Unified School District, presents at CITE 2022.

Dec 02 2022

CITE 2022: IT Leadership Hinges on Good Communication

Experts shared the ways they improved their districts’ outgoing communications and collaboration as a team.

Sessions at this year’s California IT in Education conference highlighted the importance of communication, internally and externally, as a facet of IT leadership. District leaders shared how they made various changes to improve their image, strategies and leadership styles. These changes helped their IT teams — and their schools as a whole — lead and communicate more effectively.

Updates Help District Convey the Right Message

Before updating its district’s branding in 2019, Palo Alto Unified School District had what some called a “Charlie Brown logo,” said Sarah Patanroi, a business systems analyst for the district.

In her CITE 2022 session, “Nerds and Words: How IT Got Communication to Work,” Patanroi explained that the district didn’t want a logo that looked as old as Charlie Brown, so they commissioned a new design as the first step in revamping their communications.

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The new look incorporated many important elements for the district, such as the El Palo Alto redwood tree the area is named for.

The next step involved updating the district’s website. Previously, the site was hosted on a platform that was difficult to use, which created a bottleneck in the IT department when only a single staff member knew how to make site updates. This also resulted in various groups and departments making their own websites, rather than waiting for a webpage on the main site.

“We ended up with a forest of content and an alphabet soup of unmemorable URLs,” Patanroi said.

Building a new website on a more user-friendly platform allowed Palo Alto USD to simplify one of its primary tools for staying in touch with the community. The website can also be accessed as a mobile app for families that rely on their cellphones to get online, and the district included translation features on the site for its many Spanish- and Chinese-speaking families.

LEARN MORE: Today’s parent-teacher meetings are happening virtually.

Thoughtful Internal Communication Builds a Strong Team

On Wednesday, Jon Carrino, technology services director at William S. Hart Union High School District, also spoke on the importance of good communication. In the session “So you want to be a better leader? Me too!” Carrino shared how IT leaders can work with their internal teams. He fielded an engaging discussion from the audience, inviting conference attendees to share advice, pain points, quotes and more.

In response to a question on how to handle conflicting leadership styles with your superiors, audience member Juan Pablo Rodriguez, a database manager for the San Diego County Office of Education, stressed the importance of understanding those you have conflict with.

He shared a story about a time he worked with a difficult supervisor. “One day I started asking questions, and I found she was going through a medical situation, a kidney transplant,” Rodriguez said. “After that, I adapted my style to fit hers. Sometimes you need to give up something to the other leader so they understand you and you understand them.”

Another audience member, Nick Powell, senior computer training and support specialist at Elk Grove Unified School District, agreed that it’s important to listen to others. “I find very often I’m quick to want to have an answer, instead of taking the time to stop and listen,” he said.

Carrino also discussed with the crowd the importance of not making assumptions when communicating. “Don’t assume intent when hearing about behavior,” one audience member added.

“What you focus on, you’ll find,” said Nancy Baum, a data reporting coordinator at the San Diego County Office of Education. Baum added that she shares this advice with everyone, because she’s found it applies to relationships and life in general, in addition to good communication at work.

Bookmark this page to stay up to date with our CITE 2022 conference coverage, and join the conversation on Twitter when you follow @EdTech_K12 and use the hashtag #CITE2022.

Photography by Rebecca Torchia

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