‘Look at the List of Leaders … Who Wouldn’t Want to be Part of this Ground-Breaking Community?’

‘F3 will help edtech companies deliver more effective products and services and save a whole lot of time and money. … to school systems across the nation .. we will raise the bar on the types of products and services available to our educators and students.’

FUTURE FOCUSED | Frankie J. Jackson

EdTech Digest CEO Victor Rivero has assembled the top education leaders in the country to provide insightful, strategic advice and recommendations to companies so they are powerfully positioned to sell into today’s competitive K-12 markets.

Frankie Jackson was recently selected to serve on EdTech Digest’s Future Future Focus Forums (F3) Advisory Board. Educators have been chosen to serve on the prestigious EdTech Digest Future Focus Forums (F3) Advisory Board based on talents, strengths and experiences.

As an independent, freelance Chief Technology Officer and success advocate for the K-12 industry, Frankie helps CTOs, technology leaders, education trustees and strategic partners of the academic community build and transform learning environments, technology leaders, teams, systems and services. She serves as a catalyst for performance excellence in K-12 leadership, shaping school system transformation and strategies to provoke significant change and action in the K-12 community. Frankie recently served as Director of Strategic Initiatives, Texas K-12 Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Council where she designed, organized, managed, and facilitated special initiatives and related professional development.

For nearly 10 years, Frankie served as Chief Technology Officer for Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District in Houston, Texas, managing all Technology Services 114,000 students. “CyFair” ISD is the third largest district in Texas and the 24th largest district in the nation.

Prior to joining CyFair, Frankie served as the CTO of Goose Creek CISD for 19 years. She also served on the Texas Association for School Business Officials (TASBO) Board of Directors for 7 years, as well as Board president in 2011. She is a regular speaker and seasoned facilitator at major national edtech conferences.

After being invited/selected based on your talents, strengths and experiences, what prompted you to want to really go for it and be a part of F3, and particularly F3—with its product-marketing focus?

“Having served as a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for 25+ years in K-12 school districts, I find product marketing challenging. The marketing begins when a supplier finds out a district plans to purchase a product or service. Edtech leaders must be aware of what the supplier tells them. The primary edtech leader who prepares the presentation for the purchase, either for the Board of Trustees, community, or executive cabinet, must have a deep knowledge of the product’s features, benefits, return on investment, and total cost of ownership. There are so many considerations. There are so many considerations. Equally important is understanding the competitive landscape and positioning the product or service to differentiate its benefits and ‘value-add’ is crucial. 

“EdTech Digest’s Future Focus Forums (F3) comprises vetted and the most successful edtech leaders with a proven track record of success. This type of forum will help drive successful outcomes by connecting the best of the best products and service suppliers to experienced school district leaders. Only these types of edtech leaders, those who have been successful leaders, understand the complexities of leading education technology organizations, and fully understand our ecosystem. The idea of coming together in a forum to focus on these types of complexities is something I want to be part of!”

In the course of your work and activities, what to you is the importance of staying up-to-date on products and innovations for learning and education? 

“Edtech leaders must commit to being lifelong learners. To be successful, they must lead or get out of the way. Those that don’t only last for a short amount of time in our education industry, or they get reassigned. Our industry is dynamic due to constant technological advancements, student demands, and teaching methodologies. The bottom line is that the only way to deliver excellence is to stay informed about emerging trends and technologies and find innovative methods to adapt to new tools or approaches. It sounds straightforward, but it is overwhelmingly complex. Being part of these future-focused forums is the best way for us to be valuable contributors to the educational community.”

Why is it important for senior leadership in companies (founders, product leads, marketing leads) to not only really have a strong sense of what school district technology leaders like yourself are going through and needing, but to connect with them and their realities in the most effective way possible? 

“As a trusted technology thought partner and success advocate for K-12 edtech leaders, I work with senior leaders of companies (suppliers) trying to market their products and services. Only a few ‘get it right,’ and those are the ones that have been in the education industry for many years or they hire the right people, like former highly successful edtech leaders, to help them. Many hire teams of senior advisors. 

“For example, recently, I conducted a product analysis with a company that had a successful inventory management solution in other industries. The senior leader was trying to market the product to K-12. This senior leader did not understand the budget cycle and had no complete solution considering the full range of services that schools are responsible for or governmental asset management requirements. After our meeting, the senior leader thanked me and returned to the drawing board. The senior leader contacted me because we were prior acquaintances and he was seeking advice. F3 will help edtech companies deliver more effective products and services and save a whole lot of time and money. The advantage to school systems across the nation is that we will raise the bar on the types of products and services available to our educators and students.” 

‘F3 will help edtech companies deliver more effective products and services and save a whole lot of time and money. The advantage to school systems across the nation is that we will raise the bar on the types of products and services available to our educators and students.’

There are other meetings resembling F3 in our edtech field – what makes Future Focus Forums (F3) particularly unique and vital? What sets these customized-agenda-driven product-and-marketing / issues and challenges- structured focus groups apart and makes them absolutely necessary for company leaders?  

“Look at the list of leaders serving on the future-focused forums advisory board. Who wouldn’t want to be part of this ground-breaking community? These are the leaders that are the best in our education community. We need to customize specific product and service strategies that are tailored to align with school systems’ needs, strategic plans, and challenges. We need trust. We need honest facts without the influence of meeting the supplier’s financial goals. 

“A collaborative effort seeking the best interest of school systems amplifies the agenda at a higher level. Building loyal, lasting relationships with edtech leaders and suppliers is our secret sauce!”

As we look ahead to the future of learning, and considering what F3 can deliver to company leaders, what advice do you have for those leaders to help make them more effective in reaching their goals? Why are these forums so vital to the future? Anything else you want to add or emphasize? 

“Edtech leaders serving the Future Focus Forum will provide subject matter experts with deep knowledge about what it takes to serve as an edtech leader in a school system effectively. It takes a range of skills. Only if a company leader has sat in the chair of a CTO, or as the highest-ranking technology leader in a school district will they understand. No one knows what it feels like to have the world of technology service — grade reporting, payroll, internet access, cybersecurity protections, data privacy, and much more — sitting on their shoulders. 

“Company leaders must understand what it takes to sell their products and services to the community, the board of trustees, the superintendent, and the executive cabinet. They must understand the budget cycle, the state and federal laws, the timing of proposals, and the political agenda. Leaders in F3 are willing to share their knowledge and build relationships as one cohesive team. All of this is in the spirit of educating our nation’s treasure—students and educators!”

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Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest and Executive Producer of EdTech Digest’s Future Focus Forums (F3 events). Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

Michael M. Flood is F3 Corporate Advisor. If you are a founder, product lead, or marketing lead and would like to learn more, reach out to Michael at mflood@alpinefrog.net

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