Episode 22: Cybersecurity Maturity in K-12 Schools
School districts have been leading the way in cloud adoption. The continuing embrace of Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, and other cloud applications by schools is a big reason why. However, districts are unfortunately not leading when it comes to cybersecurity and protecting the data stored within them.
For district IT teams, a lot of new technology has been implemented to support the new learning environments schools are in. But, with all the cyber incidents that have been impacting districts—especially during this past year—it raises the question of how mature cybersecurity is across K-12.
What is cybersecurity maturity? What does the current state of cybersecurity maturity in K-12 look like? And what does the future hold for district IT teams? In this episode of The K-12 Tech Experience podcast, we get into all of this and more.
We are joined by Chris Johnson, the Director of Technology at Mount Pleasant Community School District in Iowa. Prior to Mount Pleasant CSD, Chris worked in the managed services provider sector, running his own company before making the transition into K-12. He has also appeared on many podcasts to discuss cybersecurity maturity across other industries and had great insights to share around K-12 cybersecurity.
Continue reading to learn more about Chris and Mount Pleasant Community School District, and get a preview of our conversation (edited for clarity). Listen to the rest of the conversation by clicking on the podcast player on this page and subscribe so you never miss the newest episode of The K-12 Tech Experience!
JK: Before we get going, I like to start off by getting to know our guests a bit. How about we start by having you share more about yourself and your career so far, and a bit about Mount Pleasant Community School District for our listeners.
CJ: I started in the early 2000s when the world revolved around you being a systems administrator, regardless of what your role with computers was. I was fortunate enough to start out in the Bay Area working with schools out of the gate. Mostly volunteering. Early on, I did do support for school districts, and as that time evolved I got to thinking “I could do IT better than the way I was experiencing.”
In 2007 I started my own company to do managed services to help the three verticals we were serving: schools, healthcare, and construction management. This is right when HIPAA started to become a big deal so we knew we needed to have our security chops. I eventually sold the company in 2016 and moved into a larger MSP role.
I did that for a couple of years and was exhausted. I found an opportunity here at Mount Pleasant and took it. I quickly found out that being a tech director in a school district means you wear a lot of hats. That made for an interesting transition here in my first year.
JK: How have you seen your role change in the past year and a half?
CJ: In 2020, that mid-March window where everything was shut down, I think every tech director’s world got flipped upside down. Three things became apparent in the education space. One, tech equality is an unanswered question. Two, just because parents are paying for internet service, it doesn’t mean that it’s fast enough to do school from home effectively. And for teachers, managing Zoom classes where you have 20-plus students became a challenge.
For me the biggest change was asking myself “how do I solve temporary issues and how do I create long-term solutions.” Whether it’s leading computers, or knowing what my network infrastructure is going to look like in five years. We have to answer those questions today. That’s the biggest change I’ve seen as a tech director.
Listen to the rest of our conversation with Chris below and check out previous episodes on the ManagedMethods podcast page. Make sure to subscribe to The K-12 Tech Experience wherever you listen to your podcasts, so you never miss an episode!