NYCDOE comprises more than 1 million students and 75,000 teachers in 1,800 schools - one of the largest public networks in the country - and at any given time, Tsamasiros helps manage more than 60 IT projects, playing an integral role in considering, building and implementing instructional and informational technologies for K-12.
As senior IT governance officer, one of her highest priorities is to continue refinement of the Department’s Enterprise Architecture, an initiative she collaboratively worked on from its inception to enable better IT service delivery. This multi-phase initiative enables DIIT’s managers at all levels to plan for how to best deliver technology services to support schools and central offices.
In 2008-2009, Tsamasiros helped create NYC iSchool, retooling the prototype for 21st-century learning by positioning technology as a tool for enabling individualized, collaborative education. That model has since deeply changed small school design in New York City and beyond. She also established IT governance teams so that key stakeholders can talk to each other across formerly discrete departments and silos to partner in smarter IT implementations.
“I’m inspired by challenging projects that show promise in influencing the growth and maturity of the New York City Department of Education with regard to technologies that will make a difference to teachers and students,” she says.
Tsamasiros’ contributions have helped define better communication and partnership strategies among those making decisions about the technologies in which the DOE invests. Her influence has also effected positive change in how IT and educators interact for prospective IT initiatives. IT staff now proactively ask leaders and instructors what they want to do, and how DIIT can best help them achieve it.
The best practices she deploys include thinking about IT implementation first and foremost through the eyes of students and teachers. “We often lose sight of the fact that what we build will be used by real students and teachers in challenging school environments,” she says. “They constantly have to be in our viewfinder.”
In Tsamasiros’ estimation, large IT initiatives often fail because they are too grand, not adequately thought through and the timeline was unrealistic. She believes that keeping things simple can be transformational. “It’s all about staying focused and accomplishing specific goals,” she says. “Don’t try to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch. There are others either looking at the same thing at the same time you are, and/or there is a framework or best practice you can follow to get you there quicker and better. You need to know who to ask and where to look.” Because of the relationships she has developed, Tsamasiros regularly works with education departments in Chicago, Los Angeles, Broward and Houston to discuss ideas and provide feedback on initiatives. Oftentimes, consulting departments and Tsamasiros are pursuing or considering similar projects - they are constantly learning from each other.
Tsamasiros is an advocate of taking in the pros and cons - then taking risks and trying new things in partnership with the best people she can find who share her enthusiasm for innovation.
“Have the courage and sense to dream of what can be with smart people around you,” she says. “No one can do this work alone. Think first about what you want to do in the eyes of students and teachers. Then find the best people you can within your organization and externally. Share your passion with them, then partner to get it done.”