California School District Technology Leader Discusses Change Management in K-12 and the Driving Force Behind this Initiative

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A school district’s insight into successfully implementing new technology to power student success and staff efficiency

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We have to ask ourselves if our teachers and principals have the best tools available to them and if they are the most efficient for guiding instruction and interactions between teachers and students.

Chief Educational Technology and Information Services Officer, Gil Mara, successfully spearheaded a change management initiative last year for Torrance Unified School District. To better meet the needs of this 24,400-student district, Mara worked with stakeholders district-wide to launch PowerSchool’s student information system (SIS) and online registration solution, improving communication and collaboration between families, students, and school staff.

The opportunity to initiate change management can be easily overlooked as school leaders have multiple priorities including improving instructional quality, graduation rates, and teacher retention. According to Mara, change management is driven by what is happening in the classroom. “We have to ask ourselves if our teachers and principals have the best tools available to them and if they are the most efficient for guiding instruction and interactions between teachers and students,” said Mara.

In implementing PowerSchool’s SIS and online registration solution, ensuring that each student had a place to sit and accurate schedules on the first day of school was important for Torrance USD leaders. “If classroom management is easier for teachers then it allows them to efficiently deliver curriculum and assess instructional needs for students to drive their success.”

Teachers are focused daily on developing lesson plans, instructing, grading, and having parent conferences. The role of instructional leaders helps support educators through collaboration in identifying the needs of teachers and working to meet them.

“As a former teacher who was in the classroom all day, I learned that teachers don’t often know about the latest innovative tools and resources available to them,” said Mara. “It’s a busy day, every day, for teachers, and as an instructional leader, you hope that you’re efficiently leading by bringing awareness to them about technologies and ecosystems that help make their job more efficient.”

The previous system used by Torrance USD didn’t provide the intuitive functionality its school staff needed. “Our former student information system was not user friendly or web-enabled from the front-end,” stated Mara. “Additionally, the old system required our principals to have a VPN endpoint to connect their client to do any scheduling if they were offsite.”

School leaders started to look at the future needs of their teachers, evaluated three different student information systems, and developed an RFP. “PowerSchool excelled at showing us their solutions could meet our needs because of its use of modern web-based technologies and robust database on the back end,” said Mara. “In addition, PowerSchool’s ongoing development towards integrating instruction, learning, and assessment was its biggest selling point.”

Hear Mara speak on a panel with four other California education leaders at the CETPA conference on November 15, 2017, at 4:00 PM in room 212. The panel discussion, moderated by PowerSchool’s CEO Hardeep Gulati, will address how these school leaders are interpreting and adapting to recent federal policy shifts. They will answer pointed questions about how these changes have affected their overall and technology budgets and how they are funding any new systems required to meet the changes in accountability assessment and reporting.

About PowerSchool Group LLC
PowerSchool is the leading K-12 education technology provider of solutions that improve the education experience for students, teachers, and parents in over 70 countries around the world. We provide the industry’s first Unified Classroom experience, empowering teachers with best-in-class, secure, and compliant online solutions, including student information systems, learning management and classroom collaboration, assessment, analytics, behavior, and special education case management. We streamline school office and administration operations with online solutions for student registration, school choice, and finance/HR/ERP. We drive student growth through digital classroom capabilities and engage families through real-time communications across any device. Visit to learn more.

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Danielle Tyler
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