Iowa City schools get tech boost


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Iowa City schools are getting redirected, tech style.

Because of budget cuts and position vacancies, the Iowa City Community School District has been without a director of technology for the past few years, but that’s slated to change in January.

“We have very good people in our different fingers of technology,” said Jim Pedersen, the executive director of human resources for the district. “But didn’t have the hand to hold them all together.”

When Superintendent Steve Murley was hired in the spring, he identified hiring a director of information services as an important asset.

“One of the things that was apparent when I came in was for a district of this size, there was a lack of articulation and implementation of technology in the classroom,” he said.

The district just finished collecting applications for the new position that will have a yearly salary between $100,000 and $109,000 — in the average range for director salaries, Murley said.

“We have a very deep pool, not a lot of breadth, but the pool is very deep and rich,” Pedersen said. “We have had a lot of interest from people with a variety of professional experiences, so we are going to have a very good group of interviewees.”

And for a candidate to get the job, he or she will have to have a strong grasp on hardware as well as the implementation of technology into the curriculum.

“We are trying to find that super person,” Pedersen said, describing the role of the new coordinator.

“For example, we are just getting smart boards in lots of our classrooms, and just the coordinating of getting it up and running is one piece, but now that we have them, how are we going to utilize them in the lesson design.”

Other Iowa school-district officials said their technology and information directors are an integral part of their system.

Twyla Woods, chief of staff and student affairs for Des Moines Public Schools, said hiring a technology director benefits the whole district. Woods said the Des Moinses district has 30 to 40 working under the director.

“I think they will see a better alignment with the focus of their district and be able to support their efforts of student achievement,” Woods said. “One person can bring a vision to the department, where it is harder to maintain and sustain when you have multiple people bringing leadership.”

Both the Des Moines district and Cedar Rapids district have had directors of technology for years, and Lori Bruzek, technology director for Cedar Rapids schools, said Iowa City officials are on the right track with hiring someone.

“I am surprised that they are operating without one, because of the varied responsibilities,” she said.

“If you have someone that is handling numerous responsibilities, there is always the question of what takes priority.”

And Murley is confident that the new director will help keep Iowa City students on the cutting edge.

“The kids who are kindergartners this year will graduate in 2024,” he said. “I do not know what technology will look like in 2024, but I want somebody thinking about that.”

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