How a North Carolina CTO Transformed Her District’s Approach to Digital Learning

January 4, 2023
Back to Blog

Beginning her educational career as a kindergarten teacher and now serving as a Chief Technology Officer for North Carolina’s largest school district, Marlo Gaddis is one of the most influential educators in the state. Her work and leadership in technology gained her the distinction of being awarded the 2022 Technology Director of the Year from the North Carolina Technology in Education Society.

Marlo knows the complexity of working in her state’s largest school district, Wake County Public School System (WCPSS). This school district has over 160,000 students from rural, urban, and city areas and represents a diverse population. As she explains, it’s her job to understand and know the technology market. That way all WCPSS students and teachers can take advantage of technology use, both at home and in school, regardless of where they live.

A CTO’s Technology Decision-Making Tips

As CTO, simplicity is key. Her goal is to simplify whenever possible so that students are engaged with tools quickly rather than spending crucial instruction time trying to access those tools. Additionally, the tools teachers and students use should be intuitive and not take hours of professional development to learn.

In making decisions about technology tools, Marlo sees it as her responsibility to put kids in the forefront in decision-making and leadership decisions. She also has processes in place to get feedback from teachers and others about ease of use.

One process that has worked well for her is having vendor shows where there are stations set up for teachers to try out software without anyone there to help explain how the software works. If the tool is too complicated and difficult to use, the software gets a lower rating from the teachers. If intuitive, it gets a higher rating.

Making the Switch From State-Provided SSO to ClassLink

From her knowledge of digital technology, Marlo recognized the importance of students and teachers having a single sign-on platform that would make access easier for all.

Before Wake County chose ClassLink as its single sign-on provider, Marlo realized the state-provided tool was too rigid and didn’t provide the analytics necessary to ensure software purchases were the most cost-efficient and effective. She wanted a tool that delivered more than what was available.

Steps to a Successful ClassLink Rollout

Eventually, Wake County selected ClassLink as its tool to make life easier for its staff and students. Thanks to the relationship with ClassLink, she sees the company as a partner, not just a vendor. From the helpfulness and expertise of the president to the technical staff and sales staff, she has been able to roll out ClassLink to the Wake County Schools community by following these major steps:

  1. Conducting a pilot to ensure the application worked for students and teachers as well as being compatible with ID Auto, the system provided by the North Carolina Department of Education
  2. Sharing its purpose and use with district leadership, curriculum specialists, and technology staff
  3. Bringing instructional and technology staff together with the purpose of technical staff understanding the instructional components and the instructional staff understanding the technical components
  4. Communicating frequently with staff about the tool via videos and text messages
  5. Building on the teacher knowledge base of the state-provided single sign-on tool and identifying additional features of ClassLink
  6. Providing on-demand, online  professional development
  7. Finding places where teachers could push applications to students quickly
  8. Rolling out ClassLink, one school at a time

Help With Tech Usage and Spending Questions

While Marlo no longer teaches, she is always thinking about what educators need to be effective in the classroom with each student. Not only has ClassLink filled that need, but she can also rely on ClassLink Analytics to answer pressing usage and spending questions, such as, what is the usage of the software we have purchased for classrooms, and are we getting our money’s worth? That’s knowledge Marlo can use in her efforts to support teachers and students.


Education Leaders

About the Author

About the Authors

June Atkinson

Chief Executive Officer


Emerald Education, Inc.

June St. Clair Atkinson is the first woman elected State Superintendent of the Public Schools of North Carolina and served in that position from August 2005 until December 2016. During her career, she has served as chief consultant and director in the areas of business education, career and technical education and instructional services within North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. A former business education teacher in Roanoke, Virginia and Charlotte, North Carolina, June as been involved in professional development, instruction, and curriculum development throughout her career.