IT leaders should also explain the FCC’s bandwidth goals for schools, Lynch says, and talk to other districts so they can gather success stories to share with their own school boards.
“A lot of times, superintendents and school boards aren’t technical, so when they don’t understand the technology, it can be hard to support an initiative. They are not coming from a place of confidence, so doing that education is important,” he says.
Dual Networks Help Schools Manage a Growing Number of Devices
When Phillips became IT director in 2015, Prince William County Public Schools was buying a lot of desktop and notebook computers, which placed tremendous strain on the aging network. Monthly outages were common.
She started lobbying the school board in October 2016, formally presented to them (pipes included) in February 2017 and got funding approval two months later.
“The pipes are what really sealed it,” she says.
The school division spent $2 million to build two new 10Gb core networks, giving the district 20Gbps of throughput.
They were deployed in an active-active state, so if one goes down, the other keeps operations running. The division is also spending $2.5 million to upgrade the LAN at each school and is one year from completing an upgrade of each school’s Wi-Fi network.
The IT department standardized on Cisco Nexus 9508 switches in the network core and Cisco Catalyst 4500-X 10 Gigabit edge switches at each school. Phillips also convinced the board to increase the district’s internet connection from 2Gbps to 10Gbps. For each project, E-rate pays 60 percent and the school division covers 40 percent.
A Visual Demonstration, Combined with Data, Seals the Deal
Phillips built a business case by consulting with EducationSuperHighway, which put her in touch with other districts.
They gave her advice on how to upgrade the network, how much bandwidth they used and how much they paid ISPs for their internet connection.
That gave her the ammunition she needed — along with her pipes — to sell a new network and faster internet connection to the school board.