Thuan Nguyen has built his career at the Kent (WA) School District like the district developed its technology infrastructure--one piece at a time from a firm foundation. He recently was named chief information and operations officer, played a key role in not only beefing up district technology initiatives, but completing those projects with an eye toward reining in costs. Major projects include an HR and payroll conversion, two secondary technology academies and a large laptop initiative. Another facet to his leadership is promoting technology upgrades to the staff and community. In 2008, he was named a Computerworld Honors Program laureate.
T&L contributing editor Matt Bolch spoke with Nguyen about technology challenges in education.
What is the single major technology/infrastructure challenge currently facing the district?
Home internet access for all of our students, many of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch. Our district covers six different cities, and some of our schools have extremely high turnover rates. As a result, we are struggling with providing this access to all of our students.
How do you balance technology needs with cost considerations?
I use equity of access as my primary filter for new technology adoption. If I can’t project or develop a business scenario that will eventually make the technology available to all of our students, then I won’t do it. Equipping only some of our kids with tools for success is not simply good enough. This principle guides the technology acquisition process and strengthens the district's bargaining position, allowing the district to obtain competitive pricing, be strategic and satisfy its technology goals even under difficult budgetary pressures.
What do you believe your greatest professional triumph has been?
Having worked on two education-focused projects that are permanently archived in the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. The first project involved Internet and multi-media resources and the second concerned electronic tools and resources for students, including the district's one-to-one program.