Features

Ray Fantone – Richland School District TWO

Using technology to revolutionize K-12 education

The intersection of technology and K-12 education is a captivating story that unfolds with endless possibilities and promises of transformation. As educators and students navigate the evolving landscape, technology has revolutionized classrooms, opening doors to exciting opportunities and challenging traditional norms. 

Ray Fantone | Director of Information Technology | Richland School District TWO 

Ray Fantone | Director of Information Technology | Richland School District TWO

As the director of information technology—business systems for Richland School District TWO in South Carolina, Ray Fantone ensures that the business staff throughout the district have the tools needed to succeed. That includes migrating the crucial enterprise resource planning system to the cloud.  

“This migration is seen as a crucial step in setting up the organization for long-term success from an IT perspective, and it is seen as a natural progression in line with where technology is headed for the department,” Fantone tells Toggle. 

With over 14 years of experience in the district, Fantone has witnessed the changing expectations of a modern school district related to technology.  

Modernizing the district 

As with many technology upgrades, the migration of the ERP system was driven by the aging of the current system, which needed rejuvenation. The newer cloud-based version will offer more flexibility in programming and easier future modifications to stay relevant to changing technologies, policies, and procedures. Additionally, many of their other systems, such as the time and attendance system, power school system and student data, have already moved or will be moved to the cloud. However, Fantone says the ERP system migration is the biggest undertaking and will have a significant impact.   

The cloud-based ERP system will be easier to use and have a modern look and feel for the users. Fantone is looking towards the future with his team and this migration, as the system will be able to grow and easily accommodate future modifications once it is on the cloud. The scalability of the new system will be significantly improved, and it will integrate better with other software and handle APIs more efficiently. 

Ray Fantone | Director of Information Technology | Richland School District TWO 

“When I was hired, we still used the old CIMs with green screens,” Fantone says.  

Since he arrived, the district has implemented a new ERP system and installed new communications and time and attendance platforms. These systems provide more services and tools but are also more complicated to use, Fantone says.  

“This is a challenge, especially in the schools regarding staff recruiting. We need to ensure all employees can handle the more complex systems we’re implementing,” he says.  

In addition to those systems, Fantone says he’s working with a local vendor to implement a contract tracking system. The district used to complete tasks like that internally, but Fantone says they have found it difficult to manage and maintain what they have created with the staff on hand.  

Answering the call 

Recruiting and retaining programmers is hard—and expensive—so doing this work internally is increasingly challenging, Fantone says. 

Fantone’s team includes 10 employees covering student information, IT warehouse, ERP, time and attendance and communications. Keeping people around and recruiting new talent is challenging partly because of the higher salaries available in private-sector work. His district’s strategy has been to identify existing employees with potential and cultivate their skills to apply to technology work. Promoting from within is good because the employees already know the work culture and appreciate and believe in the district’s mission to create purpose-driven and future-ready graduates. 

“My technology staff has remained level over the years, gaining and losing one position. Not being a student-facing organization, we always have to do more with less since the resources are unavailable,” Fantone says.  

Being involved in multiple areas means that what Fantone and his team are working on can change at the drop of a heart. He says that the hardest part of the job is wearing many hats and being responsible to so many stakeholders.  

“We answer to parents, students, taxpayers, local leaders, state and federal officials, school and district administrators and our school board,” Fantone explains. “We are constantly working in a fluid environment.  

Being a tech lover 

Fantone was born and raised in Connecticut and Massachusetts and moved to South Carolina with his family in the mid-1990s. He earned a degree in history from the University of Rochester—he also earned a master’s in public administration from the University of Connecticut and an MBA from South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business.  

He spent nearly a decade in public finance administration with the CT Department of Mental Health and The MA Water Resources Authority. He was a business analyst for over seven years. He joined Richland in August 2009 and was promoted to his current role in March 2023.  

At the beginning of his career in government finance and human resources, Fantone was always the person to volunteer to help troubleshoot a technology problem or install new hardware or software—plus, he was good at solving problems with old PCs. He changed careers when he left New England and became a programmer in the private sector, eventually moving to business analysis and project management.  

“After the Great Recession, I returned to the public sector and have been with Richland ever since,” Fantone says. “My success has been because of the great people I’ve worked for and with over the years.” 

View this feature in the Spring I 2024 Edition here.

Published on: April 9, 2024

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