Friends and colleagues from Jason Koenig's former life in the consulting world tend to underestimate his responsibilities as the Chief Information and Technology Officer for the Cherry Creek School District.
Before taking the post as the head of the district's tech operations in 2009, Koenig spent 14 years in the private sector, handling information technology issues for Fortune 100 companies and governmental entities. His contacts from those days tend to share the overly simplistic view of many when it comes to considering the demands of tech in a district of more than 54,000 students.
"Usually people just think, 'That's nice. You have computers,'" Koenig said. "When you really start to look at what's there, it's a scale of many thousands. It's a daunting task to manage those resources."
Those resources are considerable. Cherry Creek School District's Information Systems operation comprises two redundant data centers and more than 60 staff members across four departments. The district is home to approximately 28,000 Chromebooks, 10,000 PCs, 4,000 Macs and thousands of tablets. The district's 100-plus square miles are connected by more than 75 miles of total fiber optic cable, more than 7,500 voiceover internet protocol (VOIP) phones, more than 2,600 wireless access points and more than 2,600 security cameras. The district's internet consumption has increased significantly in just the last few years. This summer, the district will increase the internet speed to 8,000 megabits per second to meet demand.
All of these elements are constantly changing, expanding and morphing along with the demands of new technology and upgraded expectations. Koenig speaks often about the dizzying pace of change when it comes to "tech years," or time as it applies to the evolution of new gadgets and shiny new tools. For example, the smartphones that have become such an integral part of life in the information age are only a decade old. Tablets are an even more recent innovation.
"Things change really fast," said Koenig, who worked as a web designer in the early days of the internet while attending the University of Wyoming. "We take things like smartphones and tablets for granted, but they really have not been around for that long … It's changing faster and faster."
Part of Koenig's job is to make sure that the district stays ahead of the curve when it comes to that intensified rate of change. As the IT representative on the District Leadership Team, Koenig has a hand in every facet of Cherry Creek Schools' daily operation, namely because there's no single part of the district that does not rely in some part on technology. From security cameras to HVAC systems to email to phones to classroom computers, the entire CCSD community depends on tech to make learning possible.
The post represents a change from Koenig's years working in the private sector, but the shift was purposeful. He came to CCSD determined to find work that was more service-oriented, to fill a post that wasn't dedicated to making money for shareholders. His role in the district meets those requirements, and while many of his daily tasks are tied to addressing everyday issues common to any IT department, much of his work is rooted in learning for 54,000-plus students.
"I've had opportunities to step into the class and work directly with students who are working with technology," Koenig said. "It really helps to get their perspective on those opportunities. It's exciting to see them engage in technology in new and creative ways, because they're so familiar with it."
Indeed, just as technology has quickly become an inescapable aspect of life in the 21st century, many students have dealt with it as a daily reality for their entire lives. According to Koenig, the onus of the district isn't so much to teach students about the mechanics of a new operating system or the updated features of a new tablet. Rather, it's to impart important lessons about the responsibilities that come with a hyper-connected world.
"The more that students utilize technology, the harder it is to keep up with them. But that's part of our job, to make sure that we're staying ahead of where students are," Koenig said. "I don't worry about students using tech – that's the world they live in – but how they use it. All roads lead to digital citizenship, and we have to teach our students how to be good stewards, how to be good creators and contributors, as well as consumers of tech and the internet."