Las Vegas Sun

November 28, 2014

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District ranks first for IT services

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Jhone Ebert

The bad news about Clark County schools is familiar: bottom-of-the-heap achievement in mathematics, reading and graduation.

That made the good news last month all the more surprising: Clark County was ranked first among large school districts for its computer services.

And Jhone Ebert helped make it possible. She is the district’s chief technology officer.

In districts with more than 15,000 students, Clark County came in tops, with affluent Prince William County in Virginia coming in second.

New York City, the nation’s largest district with more than 1 million students, was not in the Top 10.

The survey was conducted by the Centers for Digital Government and Education in Folsom, Calif.

Ebert earned a mathematics degree from California State University, Fresno, and, later, a master’s in instructional technology from UNLV.

She started as a schoolteacher in Clark County. In 1997, she was part of the group that developed the first districtwide e-mail system. She then became director for K-12 mathematics, science and secondary instructional technology.

She oversees communication services for more than 300,000 students in more than 18,000 classrooms.

What do you do?

Oversee technology for the Clark County School District, including payroll; student information systems such as attendance; classroom access to the Internet, all the routers, file servers, so that data drops (where you can plug in your computer) work. There are more than 200 people who work here, including user support services to help you when your computer breaks; people to deploy new computers; as well as networking programmers.

Tell me about the digital competition.

Provide communication to the community; provide a student learning environment; and track district outcomes. The first area they looked at was whether we had a website and does the public have access to e-mailing the board of trustees, and we do. What gave us No. 1 nationally was providing connection to the community that very few school districts do, like streaming video live of School Board meetings.

What did you do for the student learning environment?

In 2009, we already had ParentLink, where parents can view their children’s grades (ccsd.net/parents/parentLink.php). Now, parents can sign up to have ParentLink e-mail them when grade changes are made. Also, students at the West Career and Technical Academy can bring their laptop, their netbook, their cell phone, their own devices to log on to the Internet and do their research, write their papers, edit their movies, develop PowerPoint presentations. But we don’t have the infrastructure to set it up at all 354 schools.

And how do you track district results?

We have a student information system that is aging. It’s 13 years old. It’s not Web-based, which is a system that we need to go to. In that area I would say that was our lower scoring area.

And what about teacher accountability?

The entire longitudinal data system does not exist in Nevada. For us, the Technology Division, we have to ensure that we have the file servers, the programmers, the infrastructure to do that. What people don’t understand is we still have to maintain the old system — maintain payroll, track test scores, have English-language learners reporting — while we’re building the new system. When the new system is implemented, you will have a better system. But you can’t stop the aircraft in flight, you have to fix it in the air.

Can you wait longer?

No. If we want to make informed decisions, we need an information system that will help us make those decisions.

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