DAILY INSIGHT:There are no “i's” In “team” or “award”

Every member of the IT staff counts. 
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Every member of the IT staff counts. 

By Rich Valerga, CIO Advisor

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know by now that Memphis City Schools is heading into a merger with Shelby County Schools in August of 2013.

In layman’s terms, a “merger” is the joining of two companies to maximize budgets and resources. In workforce terms, the mere mention of the word “merger” can cause a major freakout among employees. The questions are inevitable: Will my benefits be affected? Will my pay be affected? Will my JOB be affected?

Our department has spent the last 16 months preparing for this merger. We’ve examined our systems and reviewed new ones, trained our employees, assessed our department objectively and put a number of sustainable practices in place. As we crossed each item off our list, we did so knowing we were creating a better IT department for our district, the merger and our community.

We’ve reaped a lot of benefits along the way, too. I am very proud that our department was just awarded a Level Two Commitment Award by the Baldrige-based, Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence (TNCPE). This is the first time the Information Technology division of a large metro school system has ever won a TNCPE award and the first time a Memphis City Schools department has ever been recognized by the state for performance excellence.

Additionally, the Center for Digital Education recently named me one of the top 50 education innovators in the nation in its special report, “Technology Innovation in Education.”

While they are humbling and extremely appreciated, awards are not the things that inspire me. Besides our students, you know my biggest inspiration? My team.

Let me tell you about a couple of my assets.

We have a very dedicated guy in our enterprise systems services department. He started with the district when he was 18 years old out of a high school shop class in our maintenance department. Nearly 20 years later, he was promoted to IT. Over the years, he’s taken course after course to improve his skill set and learn as much as he can. Now he’s worked his way up to network engineer. After being with the district for 34 years, he knows all about virtual servers and tells me he can’t wait for the challenges the merger will bring.

Another employee we can all inspire to be? The employee who used to work in the data center and separate all of the reports printed on green bar paper. Twenty-nine years later, he’s a senior systems administrator. And in an ironic turn, he now works with a system that is greatly reducing the amount of paper the district uses annually. All of those reports that were once only accessible on the mainframe? He now works to deliver all of them electronically. Maybe he’s getting his revenge on all of that green bar paper after all of these years. Either way, the savings are so significant that our department found ourselves in the paper once again.

So I guess that’s really the point of this month’s blog. No matter the circumstances your district faces, if your team does a good job, you can’t help but be successful. And people will take notice.

Rich Valerga is CIO for Memphis City Schools.