Name: Dexter Suggs
District: Little Rock (AR) School
Dexter Suggs was the CIO for Indianapolis Public
Schools for two-and-a-half years, and then chief
of staff/deputy superintendent for the district for
one year. Beginning in July, he will be the new
superintendent for the Little Rock (AR) School
District. SchoolCIO talked about his transition
from CIO to superintendent, the changes he
oversaw at Indianapolis, and his goals for Arkansas.
Tell us about some of the
you worked on in
The first major initiative was implementing a
1:1 program. We handed out netbooks to 9,000
9th-12th-grade students. We also did a smaller
1:1 program rollout with 2nd- and 3rd-graders at
select schools receiving iPads. Our point for these
projects was to create an environment where
students move beyond the traditional classroom
and engage in educational opportunities
after school and at home. We used ANGEL
(now Blackboard) as an LMS to create a 24/7
environment where students could communicate
with their teachers. The 1:1 program helped
improve test scores at some schools, but more
important—student engagement improved.
Students had that hook they needed to achieve.
Talk us through the iPad
During the summer, we had an intense, five-day
training for the iPad teachers to share their
ideas. The training was mandatory and unpaid,
but the teachers wanted to get the iPads so they
came willingly. Some days they wanted to stay
longer because they were so engaged in the rich,
meaningful work. We rolled out the iPads in
September 2011, and it went extremely well. To
this day, these teachers are still engaged. One
school is planning to convert some of the other
grades levels and another is looking for grants
and loans to get more iPads.
After being CIO, you were
promoted to chief of
staff. Talk with us about
this transition and if you
continued to work on
For the chief of staff role, I had more
responsibility. I took care of day-to-day
operations in the district, including IT. I still
had my hands in the IT stuff. We were in the
midst of creating a VMWare environment to
reduce the costs of replacing desktops and to be
more resourceful in pushing software and apps
throughout the district. We created a virtual
environment in our data warehouse.
And then Little Rock came
The search firm representing the Little Rock
School District recruited me to apply for the
superintendent position, and fortunately I
got hired. I think it had a lot to do with my
background and serving in a number of different
positions. Little Rock does not have a 1:1
program yet, but we will have something. We’ll
find the best platform for the environment.
I don’t believe in cookie-cutter solutions.
Will it be 1:1, blended, virtual learning, or a
combination? They have iPads but not to the
extent where it should be with true integration.
In Indianapolis, we were working on getting
rid of textbooks and using online resources. I’ll be
looking into that at Little Rock, too. I’m a strong
advocate of technology. I know what it can do
to improve engagement and allow students to
create a richer, diverse, authentic environment for
Clearly you’ve learned a
lot about leadership. Any
tips to share with our
One of the major things to understand is the
importance of communication—both speaking
and listening. You have to know the needs of your
environment and become attuned to what people
want. Don’t just push your ideas. Make sure
everyone is at the table and engaged. I hear about
districts that want to implement a 1:1 program
and everyone is at the table except the IT people.
You can’t do that.
Taking risks is also important. Sometimes we sit
back and wait and don’t want to change things, but
you have to take risks sometimes. In Indianapolis
we created a virtual environment at a time when no
one in K-12 had done anything on that large a scale,
and it benefited us greatly.