Why it Matters
Sheila Jordan, Alameda County Office of Education Superintendent
We’ve been working with the San Mateo County Office of Education for three years to develop an integrated e-model that brings curriculum and data electronically to teachers so they feel like they’re in charge of and capable of integrating the data they need. Hayward has been such a wonderful demonstration site for this, and the entire community has embraced their work. Patrick Simon is an energetic, talented and articulate person. Hayward USD started with very little in place and it’s been very exciting to see such huge leaps.
Dale Vigil, Hayward Unified School District Superintendent
eDistrict is cost-efficient and is not dependent on equipment. The technology Patrick Simon has put together is very powerful. We feel that public schools across the country can take advantage of merging [the work] of various private companies, as we did to put together our eDistrict, to build communication within their systems. We’re very excited about the possibilities.
Hayward Unified School District in California’s Bay Area fell on hard times due to budget cuts. When faced with an approximate debt of $24 million, Hayward USD leadership realized they needed to figure something out — quickly.
Enter Patrick Simon — former chief technology officer for the city of Oakland, former network manager for Chevron, former IT project manager for the U.S. Department of Energy — and eGovernment enthusiast. Acting Superintendent Janis Duran recruited Patrick Simon from San Lorenzo Unified School District in December 2000, the first education chief information officer and education technology director in the district.
Since 2004, Patrick Simon, Hayward USD’s director of Technology Support Services, has delivered a world-class technology program to the district. This effort includes student, parent, teacher and administrative access to an eDistrict portal that offers a variety of services (see the eDistrict sidebar), access to state-subsidized data management and reporting solutions, and places power in the district seat during purchase negotiation.
This community-based initiative was borne of a group called Partners in Education (PIE), whose mission is to “enlist the active engagement of community, businesses and parents to support and improve the education of our students through the development of working relationships,” according to the group’s Web site. This community outreach program is comprised of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce, the rotary club, community parents, all community businesses and activists.
When Simon attended his first PIE meeting, he saw an opportunity to help. He received confirmation of the rumors he’d heard — it looked bad in the Hayward USD IT department. Most of the systems were an average of 10 to 15 years old. The IT department did not have the skill set required to support what they wanted to do, and were understaffed. “I saw opportunity for growth, cost savings and return on investment (ROI) opportunities by consolidating, integrating and migrating,” says Simon.
After deciding to join PIE, Patrick Simon became a leader who would invariably shape the Hayward community. After attending PIE brainstorming meetings, Simon began to talk about the district’s new vision and communicate the possibilities he saw.
Simon sold the group on eDistrict — something he’d been passionate about as the CIO for the city of Oakland and the Port of Jacksonville — but it took tenacity, diligence and well-planned communication to see his idea come to fruition.
As the chief enterprise architect of eDistrict, Simon can fully articulate the success of the project: “Vendors come in the front door, then we take them through ‘Simonization’ [learning the platform and network infrastructure], and then you become a partner. The key is not just the initial deployment, but the sustainability, total cost of ownership and return on investment. This…helped me sell eDistrict to the [school] board.”
Patrick Simon explains that through his career in public sector technology, he “found that politics and community activism [can inform] the community. When informed and when educated…the community…becomes very smart and attentive, and very keen about what the issues are. They begin to watch school board meetings; they begin to attend collaborative community meetings where parents and community members have the chance to talk about children’s welfare and futures.”
There was some initial confusion about eDistrict due to a lack of effective communication. Simon explains his communication strategy, which he stresses is essential when trying for a new implementation. “What I found through the eDistrict initiative is that you must have three things for effective collaboration and implementation: one, a group like PIE that represents the community; two, executive-level stakeholder buy-in from an executive roundtable team, the school board and the superintendent. [Those stakeholders] must understand what an initiative means and how it will impact the district and school sites. Three, you must have rank-and-file input and support. You do not open the process up to the point where the users make the decisions, but the users are heard and they have input.”
To put it succinctly, communication leads to informed participants. When those participants have adequate information, they are more willing to be involved in the effort.
The project yielded better communication throughout the entire district, given the new resources. It is also the pet project of the community. “As each day goes by…we have made significant gains in [completing] the larger scope of our ed tech plan…This has always been a total team effort…For two years, and after being almost $24 million in debt, to have a world-class technology program emerge is something we are all quite proud of,” says Simon.
Hayward USD’s eDistrict
Patrick Simon, Hayward school district’s director of Technology Support Services, was the driving force behind the first Web-based, wireless eDistrict in the world.
eDistrict facilitates student learning and assessments online, accelerates professional development and enables digital document management. The eDistrict portal serves teachers, students and parents, helping with curriculum integration, grades and schedule check, and provides numerous other services and resources.
“The new eDistrict classrooms will consist of an interactive whiteboard, wireless stylus, projector, laptops, student response devices and lesson plan development software,” Simon explains. “Teachers will have the resources to create lessons with embedded images, streaming video, audio and other interactive curriculum, while student assessment devices will generate daily test results and feedback. Lessons can be uploaded to [our site], where kids and parents can review them from any wireless access point anytime and anywhere in the district.”
California’s Education ERP Experiment
HUSD, as well as the Alameda County Office of Education and San Mateo Office of Education, are CEEDS in-progress pilot projects. CEEDS stands for the Consortium for Educational Enterprise Data Systems, an organization that provides technology to school districts in California to keep administrators, teachers, parents and students connected and informed. Thanks to CEEDS, members of the district can:
- manage courses online
- provide a common portal for anyone in the district to access information
- access forms online
- and do much more.
The total cost to Hayward school district is equal to $10 per student per year.