Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Visionary Leadership Can Do

When a large and historically bureaucratic organization demonstrates visionary thinking and agility it’s worth taking notice. Add to that the fact that it is an education system funded by tax dollars and it is even more impressive. Take note, Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) is energized, acting entrepreneurially, and changing the future of its students.

LACCD operates nine campuses in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, serving 122,000 students. Sixty percent of its students are immigrants or from immigrant families, less than 14% of incoming freshman are proficient in English, and only 6% are proficient in mathematics. These stunning numbers paint the image of an equally stunning challenge. To meet this challenge LACCD has undertaken a number of initiatives aimed at revitalizing the education process while demonstrating leadership in sustainability. These initiatives include building new facilities that support environmental goals and act as learning resources, achieving energy independence, changing the way infrastructure is conceived and deployed, and developing new technology standards and resources for educators and students.

Energy Independence: LACCD began projects this year that will result in all nine campuses being completely off of the power grid by the end of the year. To do this, LACCD partnered with Energy Service Companies (ESCO’s) who are capitalizing, installing, and maintaining a variety of energy technology projects. These include widespread use of photo-voltaic panels, small architectural-scale wind turbines, geo-thermal energy storage, and others. LACCD will then repay the investment using the money it would have paid to utilities, until the projects are paid off in full. After that, the only expense will be maintaining the system leaving the margin available for reinvestment in the educational system.

Infrastructure Upgrades: One example is the deployment of HD video teleconferencing at all nine campuses utilizing latest technology. These systems cost less than $30,000 dollars per room and deliver HD quality images and sound, allowing campus administrators, staff and students to conduct meetings and collaborate virtually. In the LA area that means time saved transitioning between sites, not to mention the reduced carbon footprint that goes with it.

Partnering With Industry: A powerful illustration of LACCD’s entrepreneurial spirit is its engagement with the automobile industry in the development of hydrogen fuel infrastructure. Chalk this one up to serendipity meets preparation and boldness. One of the by-products of the energy processes being deployed is hydrogen. Coincidentally, car manufacturers are gearing up to bring first generation hydrogen fuel cell cars to mass market in 2010. Those two facts present an opportunity that LACCD is taking advantage of in a couple of ways. First, with funding support from industry LACCD plans to build hydrogen fuel stations at each of its campuses, taking advantage of an available resource and market need to create revenue. Secondly, all those new hydrogen fuel cell cars are going to need mechanics, and LACCD is going to train them (again, with funding support from the auto industry). That helps those students and provides economic benefit to the entire region.

Education and Student Resources: New web-based tools help educators plan development pathways and track student progress. Students now have personal sites that include educational records, coursework, and social elements; all within a protected and safe virtual environment. These educator/student tools are being collaboratively designed along with leading institutions including MIT and Harvard, allowing LACCD to gain both from participating in the development process and from early deployment.

I don’t know about you, but I feel very good about the direction the district is taking, its forward posture and intelligent use of technology. I also feel very good about its stewardship of tax dollars. The district has benefitted from $5 Billion in bond approvals over the last several years and has demonstrated it takes its charter seriously. Kudos to LACCD for strategy well conceived and solid implementation, with special recognition to Gary Colombo, Vice Chancellor for Institutional Effectiveness; Deborah Harrington, Dean for Institutional Effectiveness; Larry Eisenberg, Executive Director Facilities and Planning; Jorge Mata, Interim CIO, and Subodh Kumar, President of CFM Group, who is assisting LACCD with their strategic technology initiatives, for charting a successful path to improved educational outcomes while strengthening sustainability.

No comments:

Post a Comment