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Building an environment of trust

How a Texas school district is safeguarding student data.

6 min read


Building an environment of trust


This post is sponsored by the Consortium for School Networking

Last Spring the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) launched the Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) Seal Program in partnership with AASA, the School Superintendents Association, the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO International), and ASCD, and was developed in collaboration with a diverse group of 28 school system leaders from across the country.

The program requires schools to have implemented student data privacy protections that meet a set of high standards around 5 core practice areas. Schools that demonstrate that they have met the Program requirements will be able to display the TLE Seal, signifying their commitment to student data privacy. Different than existing voluntary privacy programs, the Trusted Learning Environment Seal is the only data privacy seal for school systems, focused on building a culture of trust and transparency.

After a rigorous application process only a few school districts came out victorious and were awarded the TLE Seal for their efforts, one of them was Lewisville ISD in Texas. Recently, we sat down with recipients of the TLE Seal to find out more about what they learned by going through the program. In this first in a series of short interviews, we bring you insight into how Bryon Kolbeck and David Koonce at Lewisville ISD worked through the application process to share their advice for future TLE Seal applicants.

Why did you decide to apply for the TLE Seal?

Lewisville ISD sees data privacy as a critical issue, particularly given the district’s commitment to using technology to enhance the learning process through a variety of digital instructional materials and devices. We viewed the TLE application process as an opportunity to perform an internal review/assessment of our data privacy/security efforts. We also wanted to provide our community with a respected external validation of our data privacy/security efforts so the TLE Seal itself was an extra incentive to complete the work. However, whether we were awarded the Seal or not, we valued the chance at receiving an external opinion/review/assessment of our data privacy/security efforts.

When it comes to developing and improving your school system compliance program, what   do you find most challenging?

It goes back to the principle of the urgent vs. the important. Prioritizing and focusing on important tasks are always a challenge when facing the ever-present demands of the urgent. Also, data privacy responsibilities span many departments within the organization. It can be challenging to create a culture of responsibility surrounding data privacy.

What did you learn by going through the application process?

The 25 practices defined within the TLE made us re-evaluate what we were doing in each area compared to the high standard set within the TLE framework. The breadth and depth of the TLE definition emphasized to us that student data privacy/security has to be a district-wide responsibility, not simply a Technology responsibility. As we gathered artifacts for the application, we began to document a more holistic view of the district’s data privacy and security efforts. We reflected on the artifacts gathered and also self-assessed the current practice and how to make practices better in the future. This process raises awareness throughout the district and provides the groundwork for an ongoing action plan.

How do you refresh your compliance program each year? What steps do you take to ensure that the program is constantly improving?

It’s important to develop a culture of reflection. The team must take time regularly to look back, whether at a process or project, and review what could be done better. It’s critical that team members feel safe discussing failures without feeling like there will be punitive consequences. The team will only improve when issues are honestly and openly discussed in the search for better solutions. As stated above, the self-reflection process of comparing current practices to the TLE framework helps us maintain a focus on improvement.

What advice do you have for future TLE Seal applicants? 

  1. Get support from district leadership.
  2. Make it a cross-functional team effort to pull together artifacts (not just the Technology Department).
    –  Early in the application process, identify “owners” within your district of the TLE practices, and communicate expectations and timelines for documenting artifacts.
    –  Be intentional with your communication. Target communication to TLE practice “owners” for only the area they have ownership. This can reduce the risk of overwhelming people with communication and assignments not specific to their area of ownership.       
  3. Use a project management approach for the application process. Break down the application process into tasks, assign practice and task owners, and track progress towards completion.  Have a single project manager for the application process that is responsible for tracking and coordinating the collection of artifacts for all practices.
  4. Use the application process as an opportunity for reflection on current practices, identify areas for improvement, and take action (keep future artifacts in mind!).

For more on the Trusted Learning Environment Seal Program and how it can help inform your school system’s compliance program and create a simple way for you to communicate your data privacy and security efforts within your community, visit

Also, make sure to register for Behind the TLE Seal: Trusted Learning Environment Stories on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 from 1:00 – 2:00 pm ET.

Bryon Kolbeck is the Executive Director of Technical and Information Services for the Lewisville Independent School District (LISD).  The LISD Technology Department supports a large 1:1 mobile learning initiative which includes over 50K iPads.   Prior to his role in LISD, Bryon served as a district wide educational technology leader in Wisconsin for over 12 years.  He has served in an advisory capacity for technology planning for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, was the Co-Chair for the Professional Learning and Leadership committee of the Wisconsin chapter of CoSN.  He graduated from the University of Wisconsin- Stout with degrees in Technology Education, has a Master’s Degree in Career and Technical Education, and holds an Instructional Technology Coordinator administrative certificate.

David Koonce has been serving as a technology leader in Texas public schools for over 12 years. He is currently the Director of Technical Information Services for Lewisville ISD. David graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Computer Science. He is an active member of both the CoSN and TASBO professional organizations. 

About CoSN

CoSN is the premier professional association for school system technology leaders. The mission of CoSN is to empower educational leaders to leverage technology to realize engaging learning environments. Visit or call 866-267-8747 to find out more about CoSN’s focus areas, annual conference and events, advocacy and policy, membership, and the CETL certification exam.