Orth has been innovating with technology his entire public sector career - and not just in education, although that has been his main area of focus. He started out as the executive director of the Ohio SchoolNet Commission in 1997 and in his seven years there, SchoolNet invested more than $170 million in standardized network connectivity. In 1999, the average broadband speed for Ohio school districts was 1.5 megabits per second - now more than 80 percent of the schools in Ohio are at 100 megabits per second or above. “This had a huge impact on Ohio in terms of changing the public’s expectations of technology’s role in education, and has had a tremendous influence on students and educators,” says Orth.
Shortly after his time at SchoolNet, Orth became the CIO for the state of Ohio where he led a major statewide cloud computing and IT consolidation initiative. His past experiences and knowledge laid the groundwork for some of the initiatives he is now working on as the chief technology officer for the Management Council of the Ohio Education Computer Network (MC-OECN), a council of governments that supports the efforts of OECN. OECN is a network of information technology providers who offer shared IT services and applications to about 90 percent of public, private and charter schools in Ohio.
Building from his experience as state CIO, one of Orth’s first initiatives at MC-OECN was to work with OECN’s members to centralize their 21 data centers into a statewide K-12 computing cloud. They are now continuously moving applications into the centralized cloud environment, such as the library information system and the statewide help desk environment, which services all of the core K-12 applications, bringing major efficiencies to the state’s education IT infrastructure.
In addition, Orth’s focus in the last year at MC-OECN has been working with the Ohio Department of Education to help school districts prepare their IT environments for Common Core online assessments. “We have conducted about 40 outreach sessions with technology coordinators, superintendents, and curriculum and assessment managers around what they need to be doing at the local level to prepare their environment, teachers, students, parents and communities for online assessments,” he says.
Most recently, Orth has been working with the Ohio Association of School Business Officials to upgrade the finance and accounting system that most Ohio school districts use - a system that was first developed as a customized piece of software back in 1979. They are implementing a new enterprise resource planning system that will significantly streamline administrative workflows.
Orth points out that even though much of what MC-OECN does is “behind the scenes” when it comes to technology, it has a major impact on the education system in Ohio. “Any time we can maximize efficiencies in providing and delivering education technology services means that we can reinvest those dollars where it matters most - in the classrooms and in student learning,” he says. “Our association drives those efficiencies and the schools we serve directly benefit from them.”
What drives him? The students themselves. “All you have to do is sit with young students for a few minutes and talk to them about their goals and aspirations for the future - that’s what really inspires me,” he says. “In an economy that relies on knowledge, our children are our most important and precious resource. We have to invest in them if we want to be successful in the future.”