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Date: October 28th, 2008
Submitted By: Jennifer Cummings, CoSN   -   Web Site: www.cosn.org

Prepare for Disaster Before It Strikes

Washington, DC (October 28, 2008) - The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) today launched its new IT Crisis Preparedness Initiative, which is designed to help K-12 technology leaders ensure that their schools and school districts are prepared for disaster before, during and after it strikes. For the past several years, CoSN has focused on IT crisis preparedness as part of its professional development and leadership efforts. The new initiative, which builds on that foundation, will be a sustained program that will feature planning guides, presentations, workshop-style conference sessions, case studies and other useful resources for educators.

"Often when we think about being prepared for crises, we think about what we would do in the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane, flood, fire or tornado. With this initiative, however, CoSN is reminding school technology leaders that crises can crop up at any time, and disasters are not limited to nature, season, region or any other criteria," said Sheryl Abshire, CoSN Chair and Chief Technology Officer at Calcasieu Parish School System in Lake Charles, LA. "As crises are often unexpected and cannot be forecast, it is incumbent upon school leaders to prepare to confront disaster before it strikes and threatens to damage critical information, infrastructure and technological investments."

CoSN's new IT Crisis Preparedness Initiative builds on a professional development module CoSN released in 2006 as part of its Essential Leadership Skills series. The original professional development effort included workshops to help education technology leaders plan for the unexpected, and chief technology officers (CTOs) who attended these sessions expressed interest in learning even more. Based on that demand and CoSN's ongoing work to ensure school leaders are well-equipped with the most up-to-date, content-rich resources to guide their decision-making, the association developed the IT Crisis Preparedness Initiative.

"What we find as we talk to CTOs across the country is that their school or district may have partial plans in place to deal with crises. They may, for instance, have a clear plan on what to do if winter weather strikes or if an earthquake occurs, but they may not have a plan in place to deal with other circumstances like a school shooting, terrorist attack or pandemic outbreak," said Linda Sharp, Project Director for CoSN's IT Crisis Preparedness Initiative. "There is never time to plan for the unexpected and school leaders have to be prepared for all of these crises, so disaster recovery planning has to be an ongoing, year-round process. In many districts, K-12 technology officers are uniquely positioned to play an integral role in their schools' disaster planning efforts, and the tools we are providing are intended to help CTOs map out the best plan for their school or district."

CoSN's IT Crisis Preparedness Initiative details what a school or district planning process should include - plans for disaster mitigation and prevention before disaster strikes; communication and continued availability of services during a disaster; and following a disaster, evaluation of the effectiveness of the plan and ongoing planning. CoSN also emphasizes the importance of communication in planning to ensure that all involved understand their designated role in the event of a crisis. In addition, CoSN underscores the importance of CTOs playing a central role in planning efforts, as IT is often the nucleus of a school's or district's functions, from payroll to maintenance of student records.

As part of the new initiative, CTOs will have access to a Web site rich with information and tips for planning. The site will also feature links to materials available at cost, including a planning workbook containing worksheets that guide CTOs through each step in the planning process, and case studies detailing the experiences and best practices of other K-12 technology officers.

The IT Crisis Preparedness Initiative is made possible with support from Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Dell, Gartner, Info-Tech Research Group, Pearson, SAS and School Messenger. To learn more about the initiative, visit www.cosn.org/ITCrisisPrep.

About the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)
CoSN is the country's premier voice in education technology leadership, serving K-12 technology leaders who through their strategic use of technology, improve teaching and learning. CoSN provides products and services to support and nurture leadership development, advocacy, coalition building, and awareness of emerging technologies.

CoSN leadership initiatives include: Cyber Security for the Digital District (www.securedistrict.org); Data-Driven Decision-Making (www.3d2know.org), K-12 Open Technologies (www.k12opentech.org); Taking Total Cost of Ownership to the Classroom (www.classroomtco.org); Value of Investment (www.edtechvoi.org) and Empowering the 21st Century Superintendent (www.superintendentempower.org/index.html); Small District Technology Leadership (www.cosn.org/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page); Green Computing Leadership Initiative (www.cosn.org/greencomputing); and IT Crisis Preparedness Initiative (www.cosn.org/ITCrisisPrep).

CoSN's membership includes a unique blend of education and technology leaders, policy makers, and influencers from the public and private sectors. Our audience includes key technology leaders (often called Chief Technology Officers--CTOs) in leading-edge states and districts, policy makers, private sector leaders, as well as those technology leaders who wish to accelerate their districts' or states' systemic technology use. Visit www.cosn.org or phone 866.267.8747 to find out more about CoSN's programs and activities supporting leadership development to ensure that information technology has a direct and positive impact on student learning in elementary and secondary schools.