Not every school IT company is created equal.
If a teacher were deciding between two different science kits for an upcoming unit, he wouldn’t just put on a blindfold, pick one, and hope for the best. He would carefully inspect each one, asking himself a series of questions designed to aid his decision-making process. Does the kit have all of the requisite supplies for, say, more than four lab modules? Is the content of the kit appropriate for students’ grade level and content knowledge? How much does the kit cost? Most importantly, does the kit align with my school’s broader academic programming?
Unfortunately, given the demands of running a successful school, few administrators have the time to devote similar attention to the selection of a school IT company, often confining their choice to a provider’s price. Taking the time to determine the mission of a school IT company can, however, shed light on whether that company is truly the best fit for a particular school. In many cases, when schools take time to investigate a company’s track record or service model, they may find that the company isn’t the best match for their unique needs.
Devoting attention and resources to the selection of a school IT company, when done right, can yield a long-term partnership for the school that not only makes the best use of its technology resources, but also adds significant value to academic programming.
At CTS, we’re a technology company, but also an education partner.
Our team has worked with more than 60 schools across the United States to make the most of their technology resources. While we think of ourselves mainly as a technology company, we’re also your school’s education partner and seek to understand how we can use your school’s existing technology resources to make the most of your unique mission.
Technology shouldn’t be ancillary to instruction: it should add value.
When selecting a school IT company, many school leaders simply look for someone who can keep the trains running. They want to be sure that all of their students’ Chromebooks are in working order, that all classroom projectors operate smoothly, and that teachers have access to the devices they need to support instruction.
While strong day-to-day operations are key to a successful school technology program, school leaders should aim higher when selecting a school IT company and think through how a particular firm can use technology to benefit their school’s unique mission.
For example, at an arts-based charter middle school, how does the school IT company’s track record suggest they would manage online graphic design platforms, SMART boards, and other technology used in the school’s arts integration lab? Does the provider have experience with learning management systems used to store student work? What about device tracking?
While the answers to these questions will speak to the provider’s fitness, they’ll also reveal the extent to which a school can rely on the school IT company to provide strategic advice. A provider who lacks experience working with similar schools will, for example, be less able to recommend any programming changes that could improve the school’s programming or maintain existing services while cutting costs.
A successful school IT company understands the unique constraints of schools.
The school environment has challenges, unlike any other. From daily arrival and dismissal, to lunch transitions, and high-stakes standardized testing, the number of moving pieces in a single day of school programming can seem overwhelming.
Fortunately, successful school IT providers get this and therefore propose solutions that make sense for the unique constraints of schooling. One such constraint is, of course, money, and a successful school IT company knows that schools need flexibility when selecting their payment options and service model. The ability to choose between project-based, managed IT, and comprehensive service models allow schools more latitude to determine the contours of a relationship that makes sense for their needs.
Similarly, a successful school IT company can help schools fulfill their E-rate bids, meeting both the scope and financial constraints of their annual proposals. A school IT company that lacks experience with the federal E-rate program may not be able to help schools make the most of each federal dollar and, in turn, negatively impact other areas of school programming.
Expertise matters, but so does passion.
A school IT company should be just as passionate about your school’s mission as your founding team. From student and staff devices to long-term budget forecasts, each choice the school IT company proposes to the school’s leadership should be uniquely tailored to the school’s mission. Choosing a provider who does so produces benefits for the entire school community, and enables the school leadership team to focus that much more relentlessly on improving student achievement.