It is only recently that educational organizations have adopted the practice of using “c-level” title for those in management positions. Chief financial officers (CFO) manage the business operations of schools and chief academic officers (CAO) are responsible for all aspects of teaching and learning within schools; individuals in these roles report to the chief executive officer (CEO) who typically hold the position of superintendent of schools. Added to the c-level of management in organizations including schools is the chief information officer (CIO) who manages all aspects of the information technology systems within the organization.
Of course, no c-level executive managers work and lead within a vacuum, so—at the highest level—decisions are made to satisfy the needs and limitations of the entire organization, but the c-level manager is then responsible to carry out the implementations those decisions within his or her area of leadership. The role of the CIO in schools is to advise the other top level leaders on the nature of the existing technology, the steps necessary to maintain it, and the potential changes that will improve it. Of the many decisions made by the CIO, perhaps none is more important that those involved with installing and upgrading information networks. The individual who fills this role in a school has a level of responsibility similar to those of the other c-level managers and will be qualified by having a comparable level of experience and credentials (including having earned advanced degrees). The CIO will be compensated at a similar level as well.
For much of the history of computers in schools, a single individual was allowed to decide what technology to buy and how to install it. The rationale behind this practice was that those individuals held quite specialized expertise and educators were willing to defer to those with greater expertise. In many cases, that method of decision-making led to technology that was ineffective and even led to conflict as technology decisions were made for technology reasons. As CIO’s have been integrated into technology decision-making in schools, there has been a shift towards making technology decisions for teaching and learning reasons. The specific role of the CIO is to advocate for technology that both meets the need of member of the organization and that is reliable and robust. He or she will advocate for rational decisions regarding infrastructure planning, personnel decisions, and support, at the same time he or she ensures technology decisions do not hamper teaching and learning or other organizational goals.
In some colleges and universities, the IT decisions related to teaching and learning are made by the CAO and the CIO builds and maintains the systems deemed necessary by the academic leaders. That model has yet to become wide-spread (especially in K-12 education), but it is anticipated it will become more common.