Deborah Karcher

What's happening at Miami-Dade County Public Schools?
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Name: Debbie Karcher

Age: 54

Title: Chief Information Officer, 9 years

District: Miami-Dade County Public Schools


Tell us some of your big-picture tech goals for the year.

Although the Florida budget is not allowing us to do as much as we’d like,
Florida was a Race to the Top winner so we have systems to put in place to meet those requirements, including teacher evaluations, professional development, and pay for performance. We have many third-party systems in place—a data warehouse, online gradebooks, etc.—and we think we can tie these together to evaluations and pay teachers with just about any rubric our collective bargaining may come up with. We’ll be having that discussion and evaluating products that can accommodate that process without reinventing the wheel.

In terms of infrastructure, we will continue to create a secure infrastructure for students. We put lots of hardware in the schools to allow us to do that while letting kids use appropriate sites on the Internet. We want to keep building out wireless campaigns so kids can bring in their own devices. We also want to maintain our systems., such as the ERP implementation we did that we want to make more K-12 centric.

We’re also going to support more digital learning in the form of textbooks and curriculum.

What tech accomplishments are you most proud of?

That would definitely be our portal. Even though the ERP was a huge business success, our students/parents/community/employee portal has been excellent and many other schools have replicated it. It has allowed us to bring our district to homes, parents, and the community on an individual basis. Teachers can see up to three years of data about their students as well as grades and the curriculum; there are safe discussion boards and places to save their work. Parents can see what their children are doing, check their children’s grades, and more. From a single sign on, each person can see what’s applicable to him or her. We get more than a million hits a week.

Are you planning to let students BYOD? If so, when?

Yes, they already can. If they hook up to us, they are on a filtered network.

Traditional or online textbooks?

We are moving toward online. We already support a virtual school program. We’d like to see more digital textbooks; the barrier is the publishers.

Can your students/teachers use Facebook, MySpace, or other Web 2.0 tools?

We block those tools because there’s a place for them to use social-networking and other tools on our portal. We have to comply because of e-Rate and CIPA. We’ll be opening YouTube on a pilot basis with teachers, who want to use the education-appropriate videos that the site will be sectioning off.

Professional development: face to face, online, or blended?

Blended, definitely.

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

I really like mindless TV shows, though I get little time to watch them. I convert them to iPod or Zune format and watch while exercising or traveling. I saw the whole season 4 of 24 without sitting down and watching it.

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