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Navigating Distinctive Technology Challenges in Independent Schools

Independent schools face a unique set of challenges when it comes to technology, primarily due to diverse funding sources that bring specific regulations and scrutiny.

edtech challenges

In this blog post, we delve into the intricacies of these challenges and explore strategies for IT leaders to navigate them effectively.

Understanding the Landscape:

While IT staff and administrators in independent schools share common challenges with their public school counterparts, the technology landscape is shaped by different funding systems, influencing regulations and presenting distinctive benefits and barriers. Navigating student technology use in these schools introduces a set of challenges that require careful consideration.

The Role of ATLIS:

Recognizing the need for attention and resources to address these challenges, the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools (ATLIS) was established in 2015. ATLIS Executive Director Christina Lewellen emphasizes the importance of understanding the differences in technology management within independent schools.

Key Differences in 2024: As we approach 2024, technology leaders in independent schools should be aware of key differences that set them apart:

  1. The "Lone Ranger" Role:

  • IT staff often find themselves in multifaceted roles, handling computer repairs, ed tech decision-making, and districtwide training, among other tasks. This diversity in responsibilities, referred to as the "Lone Ranger" role, varies from tiny departments with one person wearing multiple hats to larger teams across multiple campuses.

  1. Customized Training Needs:

  • Independent schools function as both educational institutions and businesses, utilizing software for financial aid, enrollment, and donor management. The expectation for tech leaders is to be experts in both educational technology and IT security, necessitating more customized training and education.

  1. Credentialing Programs:

  • ATLIS addresses the unique needs of independent school tech leaders by developing a separate credentialing program, set to launch in the new year, recognizing the extensive differences in responsibilities compared to public school tech leaders.

Regulatory Considerations:

The independence of some independent schools from government funding brings certain advantages, including freedom from specific rules and regulations applicable to public schools. However, IT leaders must be mindful of legal differences related to specific funding sources:

  • E-rate funds and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

  • U.S. Department of Education funds and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

  • HIPAA considerations for electronic billing in healthcare services or licensed clinicians holding confidential information

Protecting Sensitive Data:

While independent schools may not face government regulations in the same way as public schools, ethical considerations drive the importance of protecting sensitive data. Questions about data assessment, associated risks, and responsible data usage must be addressed to avoid potential lapses in compliance and safeguard against negative publicity that could affect donations.

Parent Expectations and Customization:

Parents investing significantly in private education have high expectations, especially regarding technology. Independent schools, serving specific and localized populations, tend to customize technology solutions to meet unique needs, often investing in tailored solutions.


In conclusion, independent schools navigate distinctive challenges in the realm of technology due to their unique funding sources and regulatory considerations. With the support of organizations like ATLIS, technology leaders can stay informed, receive customized training, and address the specific needs of their institutions as they navigate uncharted technological waters distinct from their public school counterparts.


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