Mar 4, 2016

Work Life - An Arkansas Panel Discussion About K12 Tech in Schools

Sharing a few thoughts on what I've seen/heard regarding the panel discussion at ARKSTE:

1) Sungard APIs might be available with v3.1 which will allow districts to use Sungard partners to connect to eSchool, providing "in and out" data movement. This seemed to be presented with mixed "openness" for districts. That is, certain panel members seemed much more restrictive to the concept than others. All-in-all, though, it is a step in the right direction. 

2) SIF is dead in the water. Between the costs and the possibility of Sungard APIs, DIS sees no need for SIF.

3) We need more open channels and bridges of communication between DIS, ADE, and school districts regarding changes that affect school districts. Technology personnel MUST be made aware of changes that affect various systems in place - network, e-rate, funding, etc - long before those changes are presented to the legislature. We know the history of how that has played out in the past, so we can only wait and see if things will change in that regard. We, as technology folks, will have to keep with pending legislation and talk with our Supts and/or legislators as soon as we recognize a potential issue. 

4) Act 1196 (Student Info Protection) could have a significant impact on #1 above. If we allow Act 1196 to be used as the scapegoat for preventing the use of Sungard-related APIs, then we will never see systems that allow us to exchange the information we need in order to provide the services we want/need to provide to our students, parents, etc. We will have to make sure that DIS, as the vendor, does not simply try to "hide" behind this Act as a way of preventing such services/access. I know the law is written such that we should be fine, but just be aware.

5) Any time we start talking "employment standards" for any position, but in our case for IT positions, you are treading on dangerous territory. We must be careful that setting a standard does not backfire on us. Many of us are not tech certified yet could run circles in an educational environment around those who are certified. If we are working to establish "devices-per-tech" standards, we must also be careful there. Ultimately, any standards could serve to provide a district with a reason to outsource the IT department. So, before you fight for certain standards, think about how those standards could have adverse effects and then figure out how to address those in your proposals/presentations, especially when it comes to smaller and/or poorer districts.

6) ADE is a customer of DIS. Every agency pays DIS for services. This is exactly as I have been saying - DIS is a vendor. There are specifications and requirements that go along with that partnership. Some of that comes by way of testing new systems, handling hack attacks, etc. By the same token, DIS must be held to the same standards as any vendor with which we work. "DIS is never going to recommend that we be on the cutting edge of any new software...", Mark Myers, DIS. Software used by the state is customized, but that has been reduced over the years because the changing nature of the products offered.  Customization, according to Myers, in many cases comes because certain features are not available in the version of software being used.

7) "Java (garbled) is actually a security enhancement," Mark Myers, DIS. I'm not even touching this one. Fellow techs may feel free to chime in as they see fit.

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