Hiring a School Technology Leader Rerun

by Jean Tower

Schools have a bit of a lull from now until we return on January 2. During this period I will be reposting blog posts from the past. I will pick posts that I think are still relevant or entertain in some way. Enjoy the holidays!


I was asked recently to suggest some interview questions for a school district hiring a new Director of Technology. Here are my suggestions, but I’m sure readers have great interview questions to contribute. Please comment and offer your own suggestions.

First, I think that throughout the interview you want to ask questions that will reveal attitude and philosophy, but you also want examples. If the candidate says she is a staunch believer of using data to inform instruction, ask for examples of how she has accomplished this in her current job, or in previous jobs.

An opening question would be the same type of question you might use for any administrator interview. I usually ask a variant of: “Welcome. Please tell us about yourself. You reached the interview, which means your resume stood out during the paper screening. Please make what we have read come alive for us. What brings you at this point in your career to see this position as the right one for you?”

Tell us about your vision of technology in education.

I consider this another question to ask near the start of the interview to get a sense of the candidate.

Describe the role of a technology director in an educational environment.
In the answer to this question, I would listen for indicators that the candidate understands the business of education, the importance of building relationships, professional development, and some of the challenges about leading in an educational environment.

What would be your most important priorities for your first week on the job? first month? first year?

Does the candidate stress building relationships and getting to know the culture and the people and? Does he present a reasonable strategy for learning about the key issues and challenges of your school district? Does he describe a process to identify goals that align to district curriculum objectives?

How would you work closely with curriculum and instruction department and how would you develop that relationship?
The candidate should be able to articulate the benefits of working closely with instructional leaders and have direct strategies and examples for communicating and collaborating with all stakeholders.

Research from corporate America and higher education shows that change, such as embracing new technology, will only take hold in an institution if leadership people are on board first. As the Director of Technology, how would you lead the way for teachers to embrace and use technology?
This is a question to reveal the candidate’s leadership approaches and attitudes about working with educators. You want an answer that aligns to the culture of your school district, and includes a reasonable blend of top-down and bottom-up change strategies. I believe that when we are hiring any school administrator we want to know that they can do more than manage the existing school. We need to hire people who can lead change, who are future-oriented.

Technology directors need to have the skills and knowledge to manage the IT management parts of the job but also need to understand the business of schools – the educational environment. In which sphere of the job are your experience and skills stronger? What is your plan for growing in the other sphere?
Does the candidate show understanding of both the technical and educational aspects of the job? Does he have a plan for continued professional development for himself and his department members?

Share your experience creating and managing a budget.
I suggest adding a specific question that will serve to reveal some thought processes in this area. It could be to describe procurement regulations and to name a specific strategy he/she has for getting the best deals for the school while staying within the bounds of regulations. A second choice could be to compare the advantages and disadvantages of leasing over purchasing equipment.

Some questions simply must to be very district-specific. What are the biggest challenges your district faces? Where are your challenges that you feel have not been met? Maybe the district wants to do a better job of informing curriculum and instruction with data. Then an important question would be to flush out the skills and experience the candidate has in this area. If the biggest challenge is integrating 21st century skills into teaching and learning, then it is important to have the candidate talk about their expertise in leading change in curriculum.

Last, I suggest reviewing CoSN’s Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO. Reviewing the competencies in the framework may provide insight into the skills required by the school district.

Readers: please add your own suggested interview questions.


Originally posted in March of 2010.

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