The Value of Secondments

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ECNO’s continuing contribution to technology in Ontario’s K-12 education sector is due in large part to the highly skilled temporary staff who are recruited to lead projects like Student Information Systems (SIS) modernization or perform essential roles such as the Regional Information Security Analyst (RISA).

These and other positions are filled by school board employees who are seconded from their current jobs to temporarily work with a different department or organization. Typically, the employees earn the same salary and benefits while maintaining their seniority. They learn new skills and expand their network and career options, while managers gain back a refreshed employee with a new breadth of knowledge, experience and network they can apply to their job.

“Secondments are an essential part of our business model,” says Wayne Toms, ECNO’s executive director. “We can tap the top skills in the province’s education system for special projects or positions that strengthens ed-tech for all of Ontario’s school boards. It’s win-win.”

That was the case for Dana Constantinescu, Business Analyst – SIS Modernization with the Peel District School Board, who successfully applied for a three-month secondment in January 2021 to help analyze and recommend options for a new Student Information System. She joined a small team of senior analysts from other boards, and a data architect from the Government of Canada.

“I was ready for a change, but I love my job and didn’t need to leave to find something different and interesting that helped my career. I worked with some brilliant people giving 110 per cent toward the project and it was very rewarding,” she says. “When I was finished, I was able to bring the knowledge back to my role, and it helped for me to then manage join the team for the new SIS system into our Board using ECNO’s SIS Reference Architecture Manual, which I helped to build. so This way I was really able to hit the ground running at moving our board’s mandates forward. Working for ECNO was a great experience.”

Ray Bury, Manager of Technology with the Simcoe County District School Board, had a similar experience. From 2014-2017, he was one of five people seconded to ECNO to lead the pilot and subsequent implementation of ECNO’s Shared Technology Services program, which today is invaluable to many boards across the province.

“The insight and understanding of how other boards were tackling different challenges was helpful when I went back to my board. It established an informal peer network that that is building a stronger community across Ontario, which is great for the boards and for the education system as whole,” says Ray, who attributes the experience to a subsequent promotion when he returned to his board.

“As a manager, I have a team member right now who is on secondment with ECNO. It’s incredible development: there is no course or training program that will provide anywhere near the same value to the employee or the employer. It will influence them now and for the rest of their career. As an organization and as a manager we appreciate those rewards.”

Steve Payne, known to many ECNO members as a Regional Information Security Analyst (RISA) for a year, then as the recent Provincial Information Security Officer (PISO) for two years, credits the experience with setting him up for a significant career jump: he recently joined the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario as Chief Information Officer.

“I had a very operational focused lens to education from my own board’s experiences, and the ECNO secondment gave me a wider view. I was able to build my leadership skills, manage teams, and have a bigger vision on the things that I was working on. It also provided a good lens of diversity and equity: when you’re looking at all the boards from a higher level you see things differently.

“I would encourage any manager to look at this: you can expect to gain back a stronger, more capable employee, able to fill a larger role in your own organization,” Steve says.