TLE Spotlight: Loudoun County Public Schools

By Andrea Philyaw posted 05-12-2018 10:36


My name is Andrea Philyaw and I am the Director of Procurement/Risk Management for Loudoun County Public Schools in Ashburn, VA. Our district’s procurement and IT teams recently collaborated on participating in CoSN’s Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) program and earned the TLE Seal for LCPS. We wanted to share our experiences about the program. Here is a blog from our Director of Information Management & Data Security, Rachel Johnson:  


Rachel Johnson from TLE Seal Recipient Loudoun County Public Schools sat down with CoSN to talk about the experience of working through the TLE Seal application, and how persistence and collaboration led to success.


1.      Why did you decide to apply for the TLE Seal?


During the prior school year, my district colleague and I became Certified Ed Tech Leaders through CoSN. Through that process, we recognized that many of the domains addressed in the CETL framework included data security, data privacy and safety efforts for the district. We also have a strong desire to continually assess ourselves against a number of benchmarks (APQC, Gartner, COSN) to make adjustments as needed.  


Our district Digital Innovation leadership team established a strategic goal related to data governance, transparency and trust. Around the same time, the TLE Seal was being promoted by CoSN as a framework that could help us assess our baseline. Then in October I attended VSTE, where Baltimore City Public Schools presented on how they applied for and received the TLE Seal.


There is just something about a peer group that can push us to start the challenge! After that presentation, we formalized a TLE team comprised of Digital Innovation, Educational Technology and Procurement.


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


·       Teachers and principals will circumvent the process. It’s just the nature of their important role to want to identify new instructional programs that support teaching and learning. Whatever controls we implement must be framed in a way that is helpful and not perceived as a road block, while at the same time helping to further the efforts of compliance.


·       Inertia and fatigue will make it challenging to continue a sense of urgency. Oftentimes this is a direct result of how overwhelming the task might seem. It’s very hard to focus on developing and improving compliance when the concept seems so abstract or divorced from the important goals of education.


·       Also, it’s coming to the belief that we have to have a problem in order to improve. We actually capitalized on this by explaining the problem to teachers and principals, and then leveraged the continuous improvement cycle as a framework for improving our processes.


3. What did you learn by going through the application process?


·       We have pockets of excellence that we need to capitalize on – both in the classroom and in various departments at the Administrative Offices.

·       We need to systematize and brand the delivery of assets we create around privacy practices.

·       We have more evidence than we thought – multiple perspectives are essential!


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


·       Loudoun County Public Schools uses a number of strategies and frameworks to ensure continuous improvement is embedded in the way we do business.  A few examples are below:

o   The APQC benchmarking portal, knowledge base and survey reports. We search for data security, data privacy, and information safety best practices.

o   CoSN resources, peer groups and published reports are another tool used to evaluate our practices and identify great ideas from peers.

o   BrightBytes has a Digital Privacy, Safety and Security module with quick wins and insights that are evidence-based that allow us to use materials already developed and brand them internally.

o   Start/Stop/Continue is an exercise we use frequently in our innovation and improvement approaches.   


5. What advice do you have for future TLE Seal applicants?


·       Persist! If you stay with the process you will slowly build the culture and cultivate the changes needed to ensure that the district is promoting good practices through transparency and trust.

·       Treat this like a project. Meet regularly, and tackle one item at a time so the meetings are productive. Hold people accountable and expect deliverables. Implement a RACI matrix to help break down the tasks and assign clear ownership. Help the team meet the project goals by collaborating wherever possible and celebrate the smallest outcomes.

·       Calibrate your expectations to what you are willing to invest in terms of effort.


For more information on the Trusted Learning Environment, visit

Rachel Johnson joined Loudoun County Public Schools in July, 2001. Prior to working in education, Ms. Johnson was a management consultant.  She graduated from George Mason University with a Masters of Science degree in Organizational Learning.  She is an active CoSN and NCES Forum member.