Survival Tips for the New School Year

The start of any school year can be very stressful for a building- or district-level technology director. To deal with the pressure, here are a few tips to help you get through the first few weeks. Some of these suggestions are too late to implement this year; however, it’s never too early to start planning ahead for next year.

Tip #1: Start With a Good Plan

  • As obvious as this sounds, having a good start-up plan in place is essential. The summer often gets away from us, and if we have overplanned summer projects, that may cut into preparation activities as well. Make sure your start-of-school planning includes all technology staff and administration from each school.
  • Start your planning at the end of the previous school year so all needed personal are available for input.
  • If you are getting new computers, have each building come up with a deployment plan and submit it ahead of time.
  • Ensure there are enough human resources available for unpacking and moving new computers to new areas of the building.
  • Do not try and do too many summer projects. Things always take longer than you think they will, so give yourself plenty of extra time.
  • Once the school year has started, evaluate your readiness and review the start-up plan. Ask yourself: What can you improve upon? Did all users walk in with everything ready to go in their work spaces?

Tip #2: Set Up a Reliable Flow of Communications

  • Anytime there is a high level of potential problems—as in the first few weeks of school—any communication deficiencies in your department will be amplified. Make sure everyone in the administration has a clear understanding of the communication flow when reporting problems.
  • Then create a flowchart that outlines this flow. This will help eliminate any problems with someone not knowing the correct person to call.
  • Instigate the five user rule: as soon as something is affecting more than five users, you must be notified immediately. If needed, send out a notification to your supervisor and to the district superintendent.
  • During the start of the school year, the head technician in each building should be required to send you a daily morning report. This report summarizes, in priority order, the things they think are the most important repairs or setup items they are currently working on. Then once the school year has started and all is set up, you can use your repair database to get reports out.

Tip #3: Keep Your Staff Informed

  • If you can get the time on the agenda at the start of the year for all staff meetings, use that time to remind staff of proper procedures. Having short, bulleted handouts will help staff members remember what to do.
  • You might find it advantageous to hand out a half-sheet card that has all technology support phone numbers and e-mail addresses on the first day, so everyone remembers who to contact for different problems. Having one phone number to call for all problems also helps.

Tip #4: Take Care of Yourself

  • High stress times require clear and quick thinking, so make sure you are getting enough sleep and eating correctly throughout the year.

Darrell Walery is director of technology for Consolidated High School District 230 in Orland Park, IL.