Tag Archives: StartUp

A Positive Start Matters

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on LinkedIn

Stress at the start of the school year is normal. I firmly believe that a positive start leads to a positive year. Here are some suggestions I like to give to people at the start of the year.

What do you need to start the school year?

Students. Teachers. And a place for them to meet. Many of the things people stress about are not required to actually start the school year. Remember, not everything can be the most important. If everything is critical, and everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.

No, really, what do you need to start the school year?

Here is a core checklist for the school start-up:

  • A roster of students who should be attending
  • A roster of students who left, to make certain they do not return without re-enrollment
  • Schedules (or at least a plan for the first week while scheduling is being sorted)
  • Lunch planning needs to be sorted and should be running smoothly; food is important; the communal time is important
  • Two to three weeks of lesson plans that can be executed with the resources from the previous year
  • Buddies for new staff, with a simple schedule to keep them connected and interacting
  • Short meetings scheduled to touch base on facilities issues; administrators should take the issues down and get everyone back to work
  • If the technology is being unreliable, remove layers of complexity, and simply give people access to the internet; new management protocols and summer updates can take weeks to sort out
  • Keep students connecting socially, and offline; build community first and the curriculum will be easier to deliver

Consider Staying Offline for a Few Days

For students under USA grade level 3, I would keep them offline for 2-3 weeks. Focus on social interactivity, building a relationship with their teachers, and learning how everything works within the learning environment.

For students in who are USA grade levels 3 -5 and middle school grades 6-8, I would keep them offline for at least a week. I would make sure they do a full review of the school’s AUP and Digital Citizenship program.

High school students in USA grade levels 12 and 11 should be the main focus of IT for the first two days of school. Grades 9-10 can wait. Once the upper grade technology is sorted, move down to 9-10. Remember, high school students are flexible, and they can meet IT for support in varying intervals. High school should be all online within the first four days of school.

The Big Bang is Not Good for Stress

The Big Bang Implementation Approach  (big bang), is something schools tend to do annually. Basically, they try to do everything for everyone at once. For example, connecting all BYOD devices K-12 in one day. Think about who needs access, and when they need it. Consider the curriculum. What percentage of a grade level’s content is only available with a device in hand? Do the higher percentages first, and the rest later following a steady pace.

Communicate the planning to everyone. Take a breath. And keep the school start steady, positive, and peaceful.

Lessons from Starting a New School


By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Since the summer of 2017 I have been working with some very committed administrators, staff, and of course teachers to start a new school in Jeju, South Korea.

Going through this process has been challenging, frustrating, disappointing, and at times confusing. The professional development is illimitable, and in a year I probably will not recognize myself (or most of my peers). We will be better in every aspect of our practice.

Without reference to anything other than this experience, and my life experience, I would like to list a few lessons that apply to school administrators, teachers, and even students. These lesson would apply to any new situation where the landscape, demographics, rules of engagement, and/or expectations are different to a person’s current status quo.

There’s No Oxygen on Mars

That is not exactly true. According to Space.Com the Martian atmosphere is about .13% oxygen. However, if you were planning a trip there and everything you needed to survive depended on the existence of oxygen then you will probably have a bad time.

As with anything, taking previous expectations, plans, schedules, curriculum, etc. to a brand new experience should be done with extreme caution. What anyone needs to thrive in a new challenge is what they learned from the previous experience, not the items they accumulated.

What a person knows in one environment could be completely useless in a new environment.  In fact, unless people are collaborating and tapping into one another’s ideas, success will consistently linger over the horizon.

Even The Rock Tapped Out

Dwayne Johnson, The Rock (aka The People’s Champion), may have seemed undefeatable in the ring, but he did tapp out on occasion. Any adult would critically explain that WWE ring action is scripted. I would agree, and then remind them that a superstar like The Rock had to agree to, and even help write, that script. Why? He wanted to succeed. He wanted to entertain. He wanted to be “human” to his younger fans. Whatever the reason, he knew when to go from doing one things (dominating everyone), to losing a few.

Knowing when things are not working, that comes fairly quickly. Developing the courage to tell a new team that your plans are failing, that comes much slower. It seems everyone’s initial reaction is to keep doing the same thing over and over. The sooner that cycle is broken, the better.

Good leaders adjust in chaos. Good team members read those adjustments and make their own. Having a preconceived plan that fails badly in a new environment is normal, and not, in itself, a failure. In any new situation perspective changes what is, and is not, success.

There’s No Need to Remind Everyone About the Apple Tree

Imagine taking a group of people to an orchard to pick apples from an old apple tree. Upon arrival the tree is gone. Cut down. The tree is no more. There are peaches, pears, and a few random cherries, but there are no apples. What do you do? You eat the other fruit.

When people move to another country or situation they initially try and replace their previous environment. Once informed that a thing or resource is not available, or impossibly expensive to obtain, the next step should be to look for a replacement.

If a replacement cannot be found, then a new solution has to be found. Asking over and over for the apple tree is not going to bring it back, but it will waste the time of the people who can help with the other fruit.

Do Not Search for Ice in Antarctica 

I have never been to Antarctica. I do have family and friends who have been. I have seen their photos. It seems fairly certain that finding ice in Antarctica is about as easy as finding a horse or cow in Kentucky.

In Antarctica I need to worry about food. I need to worry about staying warm. I do not need to worry about everything I can make from ice.

When people arrive at a new school, or any policy driven institution, they bring previous policies. Many of these policies address problems that do not exist in the new location.

Without noticing the things that do not apply, it is easy to slip into the habit of solving problems that do not exist.

This is another good reason to review everything with a group of people while spinning around in the chaotic process of starting something new. Implementing policy in a vacuum is risky business.

Celebrate the Small Wins

Starting a new journey with a group of mostly strangers is exhausting. Everyday, for many days, will be challenging. Waiting to celebrate until everything is perfect or finished would mean never celebrating when celebration is needed the most.

Plan times to take breaks (non-optional breaks) just as intensely as you would plan everything else. Give everyone those way-points to work towards. Allow people to look at the clock and realize that today they cannot work late, because at 6:00 PM there is a place they just gotta be.

Understanding The End of Year Process: Tech in the Spring Determines Tech in the Fall

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

In August or September, the first week of a new school year, do you find that your campus seems to have problems that are unexpected and out of line with the status quo from the spring term? If so, then there is probably one or many problems embedded in the execution of the school’s End of Year Process (EOY). Although this post is going to focus on technology EOY, the fact is all systems and departments have (or should have) an EOY.

Any system, department, etc., that is not practicing a well thought out EOY will not only struggle, but create a cascade of problems that will spread through out the community. This cascade will feel like a sudden and unseen wave of chaos, or a series of seemingly small disconnected problems.

An Example of a Technology EOY

Here is a list of EOY processes/jobs that must be completed before the end of the first week of July. I have simplified some of them as most have multiple steps to complete.

Active Directory access for all non-returning staff needs to be removed.
Active Directory accounts and groupings for all new staff needs to be created
Active Directory Student Accounts Need to Be Moved to the Next Year Group
New School Student Enrollment Complete/Check/Verify
Leaving Grade 5 Students in PowerSchool
All other Primary School Leaving Students Transfer After RollOver and Remove AD Accounts
Destiny needs to be updated
Powerschool Roll Over and Back to School Update (If Required)
Powerschool Records must be Cleaned- teachers/students/etc/ use PowerTools to Check Data Issues
PS Database Backup to Test Server
Make Primary School School Teams
Primary School Backup Report PDFs Generated
Secondary School Backup Report PDFs Generated
New Courses for Primary School Imported/ Old Courses Off
New Courses for Secondary School Imported/ Old Courses Off
PowerSchool- Plugins Update
Office 365 users and groups need to be adjusted to match the schools AD
Turn-It-In, and Naviance Updates/Staff/Students/Etc
ATLAS- Add new Hires and Remove All Old Accounts
Prepare all laptops, printers, and other necessary equipment that have been damaged sent for repair
Prepare all laptops, printers, and other necessary equipment to be recycled
Year 17-18 Orders – All Paperwork completed so items arrive in August
New Constructions/ Building – Checked and Tested
Websense Sync and Configure
Filewave Sync and Configure
Secondary School School Server Room Cleaned and Placed in Correct Working Order
Secondary School Switch Rooms Cleaned and Checked
Primary School School Server Room Cleaned and Placed in Correct Working Order
Primary School School Switch Rooms Cleaned and Checked

This list does not include the procurement process, as that connects to other EOYs in other departments. 

This list is share as an online dashboard. Jobs are assigned to team members. Each job has a status, due date, and comment box.

Many of the systems on the list above have embedded EOY processes as well. For example, PowerSchool and Atlas Rubicon have steps to follow every year to close out the school year.

If any of these jobs is not completed, or not completed with enough time to repair problems or make some adjustments to the fall planning, the start of school will be rough.

The Myth of the Summer Staff

Many schools assume that EOY processes can be done slowly during the summer because they have summer staff. This is a myth, and it usually does not work well because the logic is flawed.

First off, summer staff are always fewer in number than the staff during the normal year. So unless the school is completely closed down, then they will actually have less time to focus on meaningful work. For example, unless the schools avoids summer camps, conferences, admissions tours, etc., the summer staff will become distracted. Their jobs many seem less demanding, but EOY processes take hours to complete, and require large blocks of time. Large blocks of time require more human resources than are available during the summer.

Secondly, summer staff tend to work a different work schedule. The hours are reduced, and oversight is lacking. Knowing it takes 4-6 weeks at 40 hours a week to complete the EOY, how is it possible for fewer people working fewer hours to complete the same job in 4-6 weeks? The math simply does not work. Departments trying to fulfill EOY with limited summer staff will be setting the stage for an anxiety and problem ridden start of the year.

Finally, unless summer staff have 100% full signature authority and empowerment to make decisions, many jobs will be partially done and awaiting a manager to return. Not only will this cause delays, but it will also cause project fragmentation. Think of a multiple puzzles missing multiple pieces in order to visualize this problem.

EOY is End of Year not The Beginning of Next Year

EOY processes are designed to allow the time needed to make upgrades, backups, repairs, etc. These processes need to finish no more than a few weeks after the last day with students (and many need to be completed on or before the last day with students).

Do the EOY on time, prevent the cascade of problems, and start the year on a forward moving pace that exceed the status quo. I firmly believe a good start leads to a good year.

Further Recommended Reading:

The Systems Lifecycle