Building a Foundation for Short and Long Term Future Ready Success

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”― Yogi Berra

Over the past 3+ years at Garnet Valley, our Superintendent Dr. Marc Bertrando signing the U.S. Department of Education’s Future Ready District Pledge put in motion a major initiative focused on establishing, following, maintaining and adjusting a 5 Year Strategic Technology Plan that will set the foundation for us to continue to move forward and adjust to rapidly changing times.   

In order to support the Future Ready District Pledge, align to these areas, and effectively support all of the initiatives that were needed to move us forward, this process and plan had to be student centered, had to be multi-year and sustainable, had to include a variety of stakeholders, and had to be grounded in the U.S. Department of Education’s National Educational Technology Plan’s Five Essentials and aligned to the ISTE Standards.  Along with this, our plan aligns to our district goals of  student achievement, professional learning, management of systems, hiring the best and brightest, and fiscal responsibility, and it continues to be maintained and developed by a Strategic Technology Planning Committee made up of representatives from a variety of stakeholders, including the Superintendent, board members, teachers, technology staff, students and parents.


When we first began to look at where we are and where we wanted to go, we immediately saw a need for many important, targeted initiatives (ie- device roll out across the district, establishing Content and Learning Management Systems across the district, Blended Learning, revamping our learning spaces, etc…).  However, we felt that, without a plan, many of these would not be done effectively nor to the best of our ability.  We had to set a solid framework upon which the rest of this could be built and which would connect all these initiatives.

The plan fulfilled huge gaps we had related to our management of systems around technology. We were lacking:

  • a long-term strategic plan for information and instructional technology
  • a consistent and fiscally sound replacement cycle for hardware
  • a system for tracking and maintaining equipment
  • equity and consistency across all buildings and classrooms when it came to our network quality and reliability
  • equity and consistency across all buildings and classrooms when it came to teacher and student access
  • equity and consistency across all buildings and classrooms when it came to professional learning
  • equity and consistency across all buildings and classrooms when it came to technology supporting our curriculum, instruction and assessment goals.


Based on what needed and the gaps that existed, the work of the Strategic Technology Planning Committee, in charge of steering the big picture work around the 5 Year Strategic Technology Plan, set the following goals:

  • Develop a multi year plan (3-5 years)
  • Assess our infrastructure needs
  • Choose the right hardware & software for students to use in the classroom
  • Choose how to pilot new hardware, software, LMS, etc…
  • Ensure that technology works to support curriculum and instruction
  • Create a collaborative, ongoing professional development plan for all staff
  • Communicate with all stakeholders throughout the entire process
  • Balance cost-effective and cost-saving strategies with best educational practices


Our Student-Centered, Standards-Aligned, 5 Year Strategic Technology Plan


*Please click here: Year Strategic Technology Plan for a full look at our plan.


So far our plan is helping us develop a framework that establishes and manages systems for

  • our district network and devices
  • a replacement cycle for equipment
  • our ongoing push to be equitable and fair with access to devices across the district
  • our work around building an effective, differentiated and teacher centered professional development model (See previous posts on Teacher Centered PD Part 1 & Teacher Centered PD Part 2)
  • our belief that technology integration should support curriculum, instruction and assessment
  • effectively working through our cultural challenges related to moving towards a connected, global, digital age learning culture


Over the past three years, this work has led to a variety of positive outcomes.  These have included:

  • Developing a variety of sub-committees around Professional Learning (our L.E.A.P. Committee), our HS 1:1 Initiative, eSafety, our #GoOpen/OER initiative, a Scope & Sequence of Technology Skills, and, most recently, a Blended Learning Committee.
  • Developing a comprehensive outline for how to effectively build, facilitate, and sustain a multi-year technology plan that includes components centered around leadership, infrastructure, sustainability, professional development, curriculum and instruction, hardware & software, that balances cost-effective and cost-saving strategies with best educational practices.
  • Establishing our own in house cyber program, the eSchool@GarnetValley, to address the needs of our students
  • Transitioning our curriculum cycle and and process for vetting and purchasing resources from purchasing textbooks to developing our own Open Educational Resources.
  • Re-designing many of our traditional learning spaces into Collaboration and Innovation Spaces, which are build to be student-centered, foster collaboration, and encourage creativity and innovation.
  • Setting the foundation for moving our Professional Learning and our Instruction to a Blended Format


A Deeper Dive into the Numbers

A Year by Year Look

Years 1& 2:

  • 100% access to technology for all faculty and staff
  • 32% increase in access to technology for all students K-5 (60% to 92%)
  • 52% increase in access to technology for all students 6-8 (23% to 75%)
  • 93% increase in access to technology for all students 9-12 (7% to 100%)
  • One Content Management System grades K-5
  • One Learning Management System grades 6-12
  • Differentiated professional development for all staff= It’s all about CHOICE
  • Grades K-5 learning spaces and 6-8 learning spaces redesigned with in focus on: being student centered,  fostering collaboration, and encouraging creativity and innovation
  • Adoption of one productivity platform for all staff and students
  • Upgraded entire network infrastructure to support the growing classroom needs


By the beginning of year 3, 2017-2018, we will have:

  • 100% access to technology for all faculty and staff
  • 100% access to technology for all students K-12
  • One Learning Management System
  • Differentiated professional development for all staff
  • All learning spaces redesigned with in focus on: being student centered,  fostering collaboration, and encouraging creativity and innovation
  • Development of our own in-house cyber program to add to our existing educational offerings
  • Adoption on one productivity platform for all staff and students
  • Upgrade entire network infrastructure to support the growing classroom needs]


Throughout the entire Major League Baseball season Joe Maddon, the manager of the World Series Championship Chicago Cubs, would repeatedly talk about ‘trusting the process’ and ‘it being more about the journey than the destination’.  Obviously, this worked.  

The process we have established, been following, and have been adjusting as we go is below:

Step 1: Recruit and organize Planning Team – we began by recruiting team members who were representative of all stakeholders in the district and who were leaders that excelled in planning, relationship, and communication skills.  These included our Superintendent, Assistant Superintendents, Director of HR, Business Manager, Board Members, Principals, Assistant Principals, Staff Leaders, Teachers, Parents and Students.

Step 2: Research & Vision – to follow Simon Sinek’s advice, we started with the “WHY.” We spent our early meetings to establish the reasons for this shift, including the current research and educational trends that were going to guide our work and help us develop the vision, mission, and outcomes for the committee. We spent time reading articles, watching videos, and discussing the content and implications of these texts.  We then moved onto the “HOW.” This stage included reviewing our vision/mission and goals that guided our committee’s work and the specifics on how the different technologies and professional development components were going to be implemented.

Step 3: Construct the Technology Plan – We then had to address the “WHAT.” We framed the plan around The U.S. Department of Education’s National Educational Technology Plan’s Five Essentials, and we spent time reviewing how we identified the technology needs of the individuals and organizations in our district, and we identified the technologies that could be applied to those needs. At this point we drafted the Plan.

Step 4: Formalize the Plan – We then developed a shared document and other methods that communicated what we believed, what currently existed in the district, where we wanted to go/be, and how our goals were going to be met/how we were going to get there.

Step 5: Continually Implement, Evaluate, and Revise – we are constantly reviewing the steps we are taking, outcomes we are seeing, and feedback we are getting, to revise and update the work.  For example, this year, we are shifting the base of our plan from the National Ed Tech Plan’s Five Essentials to the The Future Ready Framework, and we had to adjust the foundations of Scope and Sequence of Technology Skills Committee to the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students.


Lesson 01– Committee Make Up: On the positive side, we definitely would recommend gathering as diverse of a committee of stakeholders as possible, including teachers with a variety of levels of technology comfort and expertise, as well as the business manager/HR departments.

Lesson 02– Ownership: one area that we are constantly looking to improve is increasing committee members ownership in the process beyond just the meetings themselves.

Lesson 03– Change Fatigue: in order to close some enormous gaps and get ‘caught up’ to where Education is in 2016-2017, we had to make a lot of changes very quickly.  This led to many of our staff feeling overwhelmed and fatigued.

Lesson 04– Communication: very closely related to the “ownership” challenge, depending on the make of the committee or subcommittee, we faced breakdowns in the clarity and consistency of communication when the committee’s ideas and work made it back to the buildings.

Lesson 05– Constantly Learn: our Director of Technology, Sam Mormando (check out Sam’s blog here:, and I had an opportunity to present this plan at the 2016 ISTE Conference in Denver this past June.  We kept finding ourselves saying, this worked for us…but if you all have ideas we’d be open to them!  Change is a constant, so adapting and adjusting to that change is necessary to sustain long term success.  We are finding one of the best ways to do this is continue to reach out to others to learn their successes and challenges, visit other schools, and, more importantly, tap into our OWN in house expertise in our staff.


Over the coming weeks, I will look to share the specifics on many of the ‘other’ initiatives that grew out of the work around this plan…our Creative Problem Solving Academy, #GoOpen Garnet Valley, Blended Learning, Our Learning Space Redesign, etc.  

For now, while this has been a ton of time, work and effort on the part of all of the stakeholders in our district, we feel that we now have a solid foundation from which to work to support our teachers, students, and the District overall as we look to make sure we are Future and College and Career Ready.  

Thanks for Reading!!


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