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Chris Shealy

Director of IT and Enterprise Services, Georgia Department of Education

Chris Shealy, Director of IT and Enterprise Services, Georgia Department of Education
One of the most urgent jobs in public-sector IT over the course of an unpredictable pandemic has been closing the digital divide so kids could learn from home, and few have been more immersed in that effort than Chris Shealy, director of IT strategy and enterprise services for the Georgia Department of Education.

An Atlanta native with 30 years in education and 26 as a state employee under his belt, Shealy spent much of that time standing up Georgia’s entire K-12 statewide network. Little did he know, he was laying the foundation for a series of technology projects he would lead in 2021: doubling bandwidth for all 222 school districts, installing outdoor Wi-Fi at over 2,000 schools to create alternative learning environments, data modernization to transform how the department collects and uses data, and working with the Georgia Technology Authority to persuade the top telecommunications providers to offer steep discounts to households in need. In August, the Georgia Department of Education took the lead on a contract with Verizon that allowed not just students but families to apply for discounted devices and plans through any government agency, and within a month, 20 other states plus Washington, D.C., had signed onto it.

Today Shealy’s office is focused on cybersecurity, managing the threat exposure that comes with increased bandwidth and connectivity by working with the Consortium for School Networking on a bootcamp training program.

“It’s been a huge learning experience, even as long as I’ve been in government and in education, to watch what has happened over the past year and a half or two years. We’re talking a complete transformation in the instructional delivery model for students and teachers, and watching teachers adapt to this. … But we know there’s still some gaps, so we’re doing everything we can … to help our staff,” he told Government Technology. “It’s really a ground-up approach when it comes to what’s happened … because we know this transformation has happened and we’re not going to go back.”
Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.