Cross-training for critical school, district roles key in emergency, succession planning
There should always be more than one person who knows how to keep essential services going in every district in the event of an emergency or succession, University of Wisconsin Superior assistant professor of educational leadership and former school administrator Steve Baule writes for eSchool News, detailing a two-step training system.
Baule suggests creating a list that includes mission-critical tasks, the person responsible for them, and who will back that person up if they can’t perform the task. The next step is to make sure the backup staff has been properly trained, having them regularly fill in for the primary person to stay current and remember protocol in a high-pressure situation.
Often, districts try to save money by not replacing staff who serve as critical backup, but this practice is shortsighted and will provide a lot of problems later if the key employee is suddenly unable to do the job. Baule adds that he knows of a district that took a full year to recover its systems after losing a critical employee with no backup personnel in place.
In all organizations, there should be at two people who know how to keep their respective systems moving. Having plans in place for emergencies is a critical step to take in order to avoid interruptions.
Along with the above advice, Baule suggested that if the critical task is highly technical in nature, it may be best to use an outside contractor as the backup. But regardless of who handles it, that person or vendor should regularly train with the staff member in order to stay up-to-date on the district’s specific system, and a list of passwords should also be stored in a fireproof safe that is accessible by district administrators.
District administrators should also prepare job descriptions for positions that are critical to the district’s operations. When it comes to the most important roles in a school district, there needs to be a backup plan in case of an emergency. The IT department and superintendent should both be involved in discussions on how to keep the district technology system moving if something goes wrong. Often, those in the technology department can step in if the director is unavailable.
Injury or illness are not the only catastrophes that can befall a district. Natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes can wreck havoc on district’s information systems, as well as prevent the trained personnel from arriving on the scene. Moving information off-site is one solution.
Within the district, it is critical to have recovery leaders in place. They can be individuals at the school, district or state level. The Consortium for School Networking has prepared a checklist for schools to follow when preparing a data recovery emergency plan.