Hoover City Schools Unifies Communications Across All Sites with Cisco Unified Communications from TekLinks
Hoover City Schools, one of the largest city school systems in Alabama, was struggling with an incomplete rollout of IP telephony. Although a few new buildings featured IP telephony with Cisco Unified CallManager, most of the facilities still had outdated communications whose incompatibility caused dropped calls and voicemail problems.
Read how Cisco Gold Certified Partner TekLinks completed the Cisco Unified Communications rollout across all Hoover City Schools sites, as well as Cisco wireless connectivity. The Cisco solution saves the district money, frees up the IT department to focus on more strategic tasks, and allows the teacher to more fully focus on teaching.
January 26, 2007
Alabama's Hoover City Schools is the third largest city school system in Alabama, with more than 12,000 students and 16 campuses. Now in its 19th year, Hoover City Schools has made its mark in popular culture as well. American Idol winner Taylor Hicks is a Hoover graduate, and its nationally ranked football program is featured in the MTV reality series "Two-a-Days." The school district is forward-thinking with its technology too. "Two-a-Days" viewers paying close attention will see a Cisco® Unified IP Phone on the desks of the coaches and school administration.
Back in 2001, Hoover City Schools had a fiber backbone installed across the entire district, and committed to communications technology that included VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) and Cisco Unified CallManager call-processing software for new buildings. When Keith Price joined the district three years later as its CTO, Cisco Unified CallManager had been deployed to just four new sites.
"When I joined Hoover City Schools, we had an incomplete rollout of Cisco Unified Communications," he says. "Most of the sites still had older communication technology in place, and we were experiencing dropped calls and voicemail problems that were caused by system incompatibilities." Price and his staff were constantly fielding and addressing teacher complaints about a phone, the network or wireless connections not working. Additionally, moves, adds, and changes at the busy and dynamic school district were costing a lot of money. Price made it a priority to complete the rollout of Cisco Unified Communications across the entire district in order to improve communications for staff, teachers, students, and their families through a manageable, standardized voice and data network for all of the district's facilities.
To help complete the Cisco Unified Communications deployment, Price contacted a local Cisco account manager who recommended Cisco Gold Certified Partner TekLinks, with headquarters in nearby Birmingham, Alabama. Founded in January 2001, TekLinks now has two additional offices in Alabama, as well as offices in Mississippi and Florida. As a company that has focused on the education market, it is one of a handful of reseller companies with a state contract in Alabama.
In Alabama, the education market is served by a contract, so that not every single technology job has to be put out to bid. Doug Pass, corporate account manager for TekLinks, says his company won the Hoover City Schools business over the other state contractors because of the depth of its engineering expertise and its understanding of the education market.
"Communications is a huge issue for schools," says Pass. "Schools do not want a phone system that requires a lot of time and energy for maintenance. A reliable phone system allows schools to concentrate on the business of education. During deployment, they cannot afford any system downtime, so planning is crucial to help ensure that when you deploy something, it does not adversely affect anything else."
In order to complete the Cisco Unified Communications rollout for Hoover City Schools, TekLinks recommended Cisco routers with Cisco Unified Survivable Remote Site Telephony, Cisco 3560 PoE (power over Ethernet) switches, Cisco Unified IP Phones 7940G and 7960G, Cisco 6500 series core switches, and unified messaging with Cisco Unity®. When the project was complete, Hoover City Schools would have more than 700 Cisco Unified IP Phones in use. A Cisco wireless controller would provide wireless Internet access for staff, and enable the creation of a mobile laptop computer lab for students.
"The diverse phone systems caused major connectivity issues, which in turn caused productivity issues," says Price. "The many different voicemail systems created a big problem because messages could not be forwarded or shared. It was difficult to transfer staff when they moved to a new site or attended workshops at different facilities because every phone system worked differently." Parents calling to reach administration or a certain teacher would need to be transferred, and those calls would often get dropped. Price was ready to unify communications across all of the Hoover City Schools sites and decrease the liability of service that they were experiencing.
Since the network was already set and Price knew what he wanted, it was not necessary for TekLinks to perform a network assessment or other pre-deployment services. Once the new Cisco Unified IP Phones were deployed, some Cisco switches were replaced and a few products were upgraded. TekLinks provided training at all locations, as well as for the schools' technical staff. Price knows users are happy with the new network and communications technology because he does not hear anything about it.
"With the IT staff here, no news is good news," he says. "With an infrastructure project like this, you hear about it when it is not working. We do not hear much about the new system because it is working. People expect to have a business-class network in our environment, and they expect it to work. Thanks to Cisco and TekLinks, we are finally at that point."
Students and teachers are enjoying access to the Internet and some internal applications enabled by a Cisco Wireless Control System. The wireless access has allowed the school to turn its desktop computer labs into portable laptop labs that reside on rolling carts and are mobile within the buildings. Students can now complete computer lab assignments in the classroom rather than being tied to a group of desktop computers in a separate room.
Although the school district did not conduct any formal studies on savings, Price is finding savings in the amount of time and dollars that his staff used to spend on maintaining the old system. Moves, adds, and changes used to be handled by outside contractors, so money is saved there as well as reliability and productivity savings.
"Most importantly, our teachers no longer have to deal with a phone, a network, or a wireless connection that is not working," says Price. "They can focus entirely on teaching our students, and that is what it is really all about."