Boston schools CIO Mark Racine takes hybrid approach to cloud computing

With nearly 60,000 students and a mix of traditional, charter and pilot schools, CIO Mark Racine is always looking for ways to make educational technology go farther for the faculty and families of Boston Public Schools.

Like many CIOs, Racine has his eye on cloud computing as the future of data management.

But with limited funding preventing an immediate full-on move to the cloud, Racine and his infrastructure team are still banking on a hybrid approach, he said in a recent interview with EdScoop. The approach provides scaling opportunities to relieve stress on the network, especially at certain high-traffic points during the school year.

He likened it to “the 1-800-Flowers approach,” the way “flower companies will need to scale up for Valentine’s Day, and then come back inside,” Racine said.

“We would move to the cloud tomorrow if we could,” he said.

View more of EdScoop’s interviews with innovative school CIOs.

Among other edtech initiatives, Racine said he and his 50-member IT team have also invested heavily in single sign-on technology, geared towards increasing connectivity across the district.

The technology is also aimed at building toward greater data integration. The platform will “take authentication to all kinds of different learning apps, and allow us to take our Ed-Fi database and scale that data to all educational platforms as well,” he said.

“When an educational technology platform is working well in a classroom or school, we want to be able to bring that up to 130 buildings,” he said.

Another big initiative underway for Boston Public Schools, according to Racine, is finding the best way to support the district’s school choice program.

Boston schools offer parents the flexibility “to walk into a family resource center, explore all the schools that are available to them, learn about the educational programming that’s in that building, and then be able to make a choice on where they want to send their child.”

The ultimate goal of this is to, as Racine says, “Eliminate the amount of lost-learning time,” through the process of integrating technology into school choice programs .

Ryan Johnston contributed to this report.