A school district finance leader reflects on issues, challenges and what’s ahead.
GUEST COLUMN | by Matthew Lentz
Edtech, #Edfintech, #CyberPrograms and #Cybersecurity dominate the discussions of student achievement in K-12 education. As a K-12 CFO the allocation of federal stimulus funds has allowed the exploration of various technology to support learning loss, increase achievement and differentiate instruction like never before. On the back end, the Upper Moreland School District in Willow Grove, Pa., as a team approach in collaboration with our technology department, is endeavoring to ensure the balance of standardization, individual needs, specialized learning, a secure environment and improvements for efficiency with data integration.
‘There is more work to be done, more resources to be allocated and more awareness of threats to take on following CoSN.’
Mindful of budget limitations, the pending expiration of ESSER funds and the continuous risk of cyber attacks, attendance at this year’s Consortium for School Networking 30th Anniversary (CoSN) conference seemed to be beneficial, strategic and a focused opportunity coming out of the past few years of change, influx and rapid reactions. As in many other areas, the funding for K-12 cyber security must be increased and our technology departments need more resources.
Of Particular Focus
CoSN 2023 was my first and not last CoSN conference. As a CFO I have responsibilities for the normal budget and finance functions but also supervision which includes technology and other operational functions like transportation, facilities, food service. Of particular focus of my teams, our district and CoSN is cybersecurity and as the risk officer, I view my role is to partner with our technology teams and other critical internal and external stakeholders.
With a particular focus based on my role in the financial success of cyber programs and cybersecurity, the 30th annual meeting, the opportunity to connect with cyber, edtech, EdFinTech and other leaders was invaluable. Discussing the work of the FBI Cyber Team and Department of Education digital efforts as they apply to specific school programs provided a road map for the successes to date and challenges ahead. The release of a Cybersecurity Rubric, the first for school entities is a concrete takeaway that I will be reviewing in our ongoing efforts to prepare and plan for cyber threats.
The Challenge Ahead
Additionally, CoSN presented practical and research based rubrics to assess or develop a cyber education program. This information paired with updates on edtech and EdFinTech programs which my organization continues to utilize, evaluate,expand use and consider the long-term implications gave me a to-do list that I cannot wait to share with my team. The challenge ahead for education lies in how do we maintain this momentum and allocate funding to edtech, EdFinTech and cyber security.
Closing out the conference, I presented on Upper Moreland School District’s cyber security efforts which began with risk assessment in 2016. Moving forward and parallelling other District across the county, we continue to assess and implement proactive measures and hone our response plan. I was proud to be able to state how after participating in a U.S Secret Service Cyber Incidence Response Similation in 2021 Upper Moreland moved forward with additional measures and an assessment of our internal ability to restore our systems. There is more work to be done, more resources to be allocated and more awareness of threats to take on following CoSN.
I look forward to the continued dialogue within the edtech, EdFinTech and Cyber Learning Community.
Matthew Lentz is Chief Financial Officer and Board Secretary for Upper Moreland Township School District in Willow Grove, Pa. He is responsible for all financial and operational functions including a $76 million dollar general fund budget and accounting functions, a $6.6 million internal service fund, a $7 million debt service fund, and a capital improvement program totaling $82 million in improvements to date. Connect with Matthew on LinkedIn.