'Classroom' Wants Closer Ties to Systems

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Cable in the Classroom last week said it has set up a four-member system-services team dedicated to building closer ties with local operators.

The team — which includes director of operations Maria Huppe; system-services managers David Debs and Wendy Ellison; and system-services specialist Kimberly Schor — was created to help system-level executives develop more sustainable partnerships with their schools and communities, CIC executive director Peggy O'Brien said.

The internal reorganization came following extensive research within the cable industry, conducted after O'Brien joined the not-for-profit group.

Field teams have been divided up according to MSO. That way, a system-level public-affairs director or education specialist will have direct contacts to obtain help with CIC programs, according to Huppe.

New online materials will be designed with different cable operators in mind — whether an MSO wants a little help with educational outreach, or much more.

"Some systems devote serious manpower to education, and others devote 10 percent of one person," said O'Brien.

The new system-services team will assist operators in developing annual planning calendars of events for teachers. CIC can act as a clearinghouse for national experts who could speak on topics of interest to educators.

O'Brien said the non-profit trade group wants to make sure local operators know they don't have to be experts on education participate in CIC programs.

"They can serve as hosts, facilitators or sponsors [at local education events]," O'Brien said.

In the future, CIC plans to take advantage of cable's broadband technology to regularly communicate with its operator members.

For example, the non-profit will post 12-month planning and events calendars that give teachers a chance to plan their school year in advance — and afford cable operators regular opportunities to meet with educators in their communities.

CIC wants to encourage two-way communication with its members.

"We really need to hear from [operators at the local system level] and get their feedback," Huppe said. CIC will bring some of its members to Washington for more in-depth reaction to its new initiatives, she added.

The new team does not require additional funding, but such an outlay has already been included in the CIC budget, O'Brien said.

"We don't know, frankly, if we're going to be able to reach everybody and make a difference everywhere across the board, but it's a tremendous part of our work," O'Brien said.

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