Published Nov. 8, 2023
BY GRAYDEN MILLER
Fifteen years ago, the technology professional development coach position was created within Carmel Unified School District to support the growing needs of teachers attempting to integrate modern technology into their classrooms. In summer of 2022, former superintendent Ted Knight removed the position, but many CUSD teachers say that the duties performed by the tech coach are still needed.
Hans Schmidt, an English teacher at CHS who Matheson frequently worked with, explains the importance of having a tech translator for teachers.
“Any tech issue could get solved instantaneously within a text,” Schmidt explains. “And now with that position empty, it’s unclear as to where to go. To me, Colin was the most important support person in the district for teaching.”
Yet Craig Chavez, the district’s chief human resources officer, explains the tech coach position is no longer needed because it wasn’t being used.
Following the 2021-22 school year, the tech coach position was split into three different jobs: the district technology professional development coach or district webmaster, the lead professional learning coach, and the curriculum, instruction and assessment coordinator. Matheson, the former tech coach, took on the last of these three roles, but continued to help teachers out with tech unpaid and outside of his occupation, as there was no longer a designated tech coach role.
The former curriculum, instruction and assessment coordinator resigned at the end of the 2022-23 school year to return to teaching, now at Carmel Middle School. According to a job posting on EdJoin, openings for the curriculum, instruction and assessment coordinator position expired July 28 and interviews were held in late October.
Manuel Carrera, the district’s interim information technology director, says that CUSD has filled the curriculum, instruction, and assessment coordinator role to the best of their ability.
“In the interim, IT department staff are working with teachers and staff members to assist with some of the processes where Colin had previously been the main point of contact,” Carrera says. “It has been a learning opportunity for us in some cases, but our dedicated IT staff are prepared to support students and staff in any way that we can.”
Although the IT team has tried to fill in for Matheson’s former role, faculty across CUSD express concern over the lack of technology support. Many CUSD teachers say that after three months without the position filled, their jobs have been more difficult.
“It makes my job a lot harder without Colin,” says CHS English teacher Shelley Grahl, adding that she requested help from Matheson daily while he was employed in his prior position.
Grahl explains that she’s currently writing letters of recommendation for students, and the district recently forwarded a PDF that isn’t usable to submit the letters. Without tech help specifically catered to the classroom, the teacher endured an Easter egg hunt of maneuvering printers and converting files to little avail.
“The role of instructors here has certainly been minimized,” Schmidt continues. “And a person that I see as critical to our instructional practices…it should have been a priority to fill that position.”
Along with leaving teachers bereft of a tech coach, plans to improve the technological experience for faculty and staff seem to have dissipated. The former tech coach devised a curriculum that had a focus on pushing a long-term plan for tech in the classroom to holistically better the learning experience, called Education Technology, or EdTech.
According to Blaise DiGirolamo, who formerly worked next to Matheson at the district office as the chief academic officer, the former coordinator often exceeded the demands of his role to accommodate faculty and students with technology education programs. The tech coach’s on-paper job description entailed the basics of assisting faculty with professional development planning, developing training materials, and so on. Essentially, DiGirolamo says, Matheson remained the informal tech coach on top of being a curriculum, instruction and assessment coordinator last year.
A former member of the EdTech committee, DiGirolamo explains what the group worked towards. Alongside members of the tech department and adjoining teachers and administrators, the committee made the big decisions when it came to determining what technology would be in the classroom, making sure that students kindergarten through high school used technology responsibly. Those in the committee discussed different tech, discerned what they believed was valuable and planned and directed funds with the end goal of improving learning through technology.
“I don’t think it was necessarily in the job description, but Colin took the lead on all of that,” says DiGirolamo.
EdTech hasn’t been active since the teacher returned to a classroom role in July.
Some teachers and faculty working at the elementary or middle school level note that since the former tech coach helped them through the beginning phases of new technology, they no longer need help. As a whole, though, CUSD teachers recognize that the next curriculum, instruction and assessment coordinator has big shoes to fill and, meanwhile, need someone whose sole job is to help them out with tech in the classroom.
“We’re not asking anyone to be Matheson,” Grahl says. “We’re just looking for some technological help.”