4-page Case Study
Posted: 8/14/2012
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Miami-Dade County Public Schools School District Uses Technology to Promote Efficiencies and Improve Education

Florida’s Miami-Dade County Public Schools makes the most of technology to give its students the best possible education. The district has a Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License Suite agreement and the Microsoft Enrollment for Education Solutions license. Using these, it easily adopts technology solutions to streamline operations, increase user productivity, and conserve costs. For example, the district created a portal using Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 to provide a single access point for teachers, parents, staff, and students to get course-related information from anywhere. The district is also implementing Microsoft Lync Server 2010 to reduce travel time and expenses for meetings. This smart use of technology helps the district provide individualized educational experiences for its students, better preparing them to achieve future success.

Situation
Like many public school districts in the United States, Miami-Dade County Public Schools is continually asked to do more with less. The district comprises 331 schools and over 40,000 employees, and it serves more than 340,000 students, who come from more than 100 countries. The district strives to offer innovative educational programs and other learning opportunities, but the lack of funding requires a smart use of resources in every aspect of its operations.

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* When you divide the cost of our Enterprise CAL Suite by the number of users who benefit from [it], … it equates to less than $5 dollars per user per year, which is a remarkable cost-benefit ratio. *

Deborah Karcher
Chief Information Officer, Miami-Dade County Public Schools

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As state requirements and student expectations changed to include a greater focus on technology, the district reevaluated its strategy and decided to invest in its technology infrastructure so that Miami-Dade County Public Schools would be poised to quickly and easily adopt new solutions and practices in the future.

Decision makers, reconsidering the district’s technology strategy, identified the need to move information off the mainframe computer, and the importance of implementing enterprise systems at a districtwide level. “We wanted to settle on best-of-breed products and put an end to the proliferation of disparate tools and systems in all of our different schools,” says Deborah Karcher, Chief Information Officer at Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

For example, in 2002, the district had 250 separate email systems. The antivirus and software update management tool was managed centrally by the district; but schools experienced scalability issues “We had to hold weekly meetings dedicated to antivirus efforts,” recalls Paul Smith, IT Infrastructure Manager at Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “Keeping our network protected was a huge issue. We tried to find an antivirus system that could serve all of our sites. But problems with deployment and coverage resulted in virus outbreaks, network downtime, and lots of on-site cleanup work.”

Although the district’s considerable size made it extremely challenging to find solutions that could scale to serve its needs, it was determined to put in place cross-district systems. “We thought that, by establishing an enterprise-level infrastructure, we could reduce our maintenance time and costs—and create a more comfortable, productive environment for students, teachers, and administrators alike,” says Karcher.

Solution
In 2002, as Miami-Dade County Public Schools evaluated technology options, it considered its existing IT environment. The district used the Active Directory service, Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, and the Windows Server 2003 operating system, and it wanted to ensure that new solutions would work well with those systems.

As a first step in bringing together disparate tools and providing a unified way for faculty, staff, students, and parents to access information, the district planned to implement a districtwide web-based portal. After reviewing several choices, the district’s Information Technology Services (ITS) department developed a pilot project with the idea of demonstrating the potential solution to give district decision makers a clear, visual understanding of a portal’s possible use and benefits. “We quickly devised a portal framework, with great development guidance and help from Microsoft,” says Smith. “We determined we needed SharePoint capabilities, set out to discover the best pricing model, and saw that the Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License Suite agreement made the most sense for us.”

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* We now have close to 100 percent endpoint coverage of our install base as a result of implementing Forefront. That’s a significant improvement over the 87-percent coverage that we were able to achieve with our previous antivirus software. *

Paul Smith
IT Infrastructure Manager, Miami-Dade County Public Schools

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The district carefully examined all the technology possibilities that were available with the Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License (Enterprise CAL) Suite agreement and recognized the value. “Although SharePoint was the motivation for signing the Enterprise CAL Suite, once we gained access to all the other technologies that it covered, we were eager to take advantage of them, too,” says Smith.

In June 2011, Miami-Dade County Public Schools took another important step toward a cohesive technology environment when it signed a Microsoft Enrollment for Education Solutions (EES) agreement, which gives the district the ability to upgrade its desktop computers to the latest versions of the Windows operating system and Microsoft Office programs at any time. As of July 2012, the district standardizes on the Windows 7 operating system and Microsoft Office 2010.

The district also can offer employees affordable upgrades for their home computers through the agreement’s Work at Home rights. “By signing the EES, we switched from paying licensing fees for our 130,000 district devices to paying based on our number of full-time employees instead, which is considerably more cost-effective,” explains Karcher. “We also liked the idea of addressing licensing just once a year, rather than dealing with separate product licenses, changes in our numbers of devices, and other issues on an ongoing basis.”

IT Management and Security System Migrations
After signing the agreements, Miami-Dade County Public Schools assessed its environment’s third-party software to determine if it could eliminate vendor costs by replacing certain products with those covered by its Microsoft licenses. “We needed to replace our previous antivirus software, due to its inability to scale to meet our demands and all the problems we’d encountered as a result,” says Smith.

In December 2011, the district opted to migrate to Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010, but it wanted to also adopt some system management tools to aid in the deployment. With help from Microsoft Services consultants, who filled in the ITS staff’s knowledge gaps, the district launched a pilot implementation of Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 and used it to deploy Forefront Endpoint Protection to a few schools. After the pilot proved successful, ITS staff followed with a districtwide deployment. “We were surprised that the process took just six months—we nearly always encounter issues when trying to extend a software product to our full user base because of our sheer size and the amount of traffic going to and from the end points in our hub-and-spoke model,” says Smith. “We now have close to 100 percent endpoint coverage of our install base as a result of implementing Forefront. That’s a significant improvement over the 87 percent coverage that we were able to achieve with our previous antivirus software.”

The Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection deployment went so well that the district plans to use System Center Configuration Manager for future software updates, deployments, and overall software management.

Communications Options
As of July 2012, the district is in the midst of an upgrade to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010; it currently has both its cache and email servers up and running on the new messaging solution, and plans to upgrade its 50,000 mailboxes before the next school year begins in September. “We’re looking forward to the more robust Outlook Web App features in Exchange Server 2010, particularly as we move toward a bring-your-own-device environment in our schools,” says Smith. “We’re also happy that we’ll be able to maintain an accurate global address list districtwide, with close integration between Exchange Server 2010 and Office 365 for education, which our student community uses.”

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* We’re making Miami-Dade County Public Schools a better place to teach, learn, and work. *

Paul Smith
IT Infrastructure Manager, Miami-Dade County Public Schools

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For conferencing, instant messaging, and presence functionality, Miami-Dade County Public Schools took advantage of its Enterprise CAL Suite and adopted Microsoft Lync Server 2010 after several years of using Microsoft Office Communications Server. Approximately 750 district employees use Lync regularly. For instance, they conduct 10 to 20 large monthly meetings (with up to 225 attendees) using the solution’s web-conferencing capabilities and also rely on presence and instant messaging for impromptu communication.

The district also uses Lync for interaction with students in certain situations. For example, the district has a Home Hospital school, which is for students who, due to an illness or other issues, cannot attend school in a regular classroom setting. The Home Hospital teacher relies on Lync to conduct classes with students.

Also, the district is exploring the use of Lync web conferencing to conduct its extensive array of virtual courses, which it offers because Florida state law mandates that all high school students must take a virtual class by the time they graduate. “Virtual classes are a key initiative for us,” says Karcher. “Students also will be able to use the instant messaging functionality in Lync to easily chat with their instructors, freeing up our limited number of phone lines.”

Expanded Portal Functionality
Although it established its SharePoint-based portal several years ago, the district continuously adds to it to give teachers, staff, parents, and students access to new information and tools, from anywhere, at any time. “Although we could not overhaul our entire IT environment at once, our portal structure gives us an effective way of adding incremental value in response to funding and requirements,” says Karcher. The district uses role-based strategies and the Active Directory service to tie together the solutions offered through the portal. These include its grade book and scheduling software programs, assessment data, and the mainframe applications that the district rewrote using the Microsoft .NET Framework, all of which are supported by a Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database.

In January 2012, Miami-Dade County Public Schools upgraded from Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. Administrative employees in particular make heavy use of the solution for collaboration; every department has its own SharePoint site, which employees access through the portal. “We have seen excellent adoption of SharePoint for document sharing, content management, and overall collaboration,” notes Smith. Each academic department also has its own site, with information organized and stored by individual course, and teachers, students, and parents can use SharePoint Server 2010 to gain access to that course content. They can also visit a course’s individual site to obtain information, interact with each other, and work together to improve student outcomes.

Benefits
Because of the choice to move toward a homogeneous IT environment based on Microsoft technologies and to do so using Enterprise CAL Suite and EES licensing to conserve resources, Miami-Dade County Public Schools has become a more efficient district, delivering improved service to all stakeholders. “We’re making Miami-Dade County Public Schools a better place to teach, learn, and work,” says Smith.

Smart Use of Financial Resources
The district is saving money and gaining value from its Microsoft licensing and adoption of Microsoft solutions. “When you divide the cost of our Enterprise CAL Suite by the number of users who benefit from all the capabilities we’re able to give them, it equates to less than [US]$5 dollars per user per year, which is a remarkable cost-benefit ratio,” says Karcher.

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* Technology is evolving more rapidly than ever, and we’re not alone in our uncertainty of where it is going. Signing the Enterprise CAL Suite helps us to easily and cost-effectively keep our infrastructure up-to-date and flexible. *

Paul Smith
IT Infrastructure Manager, Miami-Dade County Public Schools

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The district has eliminated multiple third-party products and replaced them with solutions that are covered under the Enterprise CAL Suite, which results in substantial cost savings. “Replacing the district’s existing antivirus product with Forefront Endpoint Protection saves us $350,000 each year in licensing fees,” says Karcher. “We also save a tremendous amount of money and time because it’s so easy to integrate different Microsoft technologies with our portal, so we can avoid developing interfaces.”

The savings extend beyond software and integration costs. For instance, the district’s use of Lync Server 2010 for large-scale meetings saves both time and travel costs. “By using Lync for effective online meetings instead of traveling to get together, we save on gas prices, travel time, and hassles,” says Karcher. “For example, we see considerable savings from holding virtual meetings with our nearly 392 principals eight times a year, and our growing use of Lync will result in further savings.” The district estimates savings of close to $28,000 per meeting, factoring in all travel and resource time.

Operational Flexibility
Having the Enterprise CAL Suite already in place helps such a large organization be more agile when it comes to future technology adoption. “When we determined that it was imperative to deploy a new and different antivirus solution, for example, we avoided time and headaches,” says Smith. “Rather than going through the often cumbersome request-for-proposal, review, and procurement processes, we simply turned to the Enterprise CAL Suite, saw that we had antivirus protection available to us through it, tested the solution, and rolled it out.”

In a broader sense, the district is now more prepared to readily accommodate state mandates regarding technology, and to meet changing employee, parent, and student expectations. “Technology is evolving more rapidly than ever, and we’re not alone in our uncertainty of where it is going,” says Smith. “Signing the Enterprise CAL Suite helps us to easily and cost-effectively keep our infrastructure up-to-date and flexible.”

For example, the district had to update its portal to account for a new state assessment that teachers had to use, as mandated by the state of Florida. ITS staff quickly tied the assessment to the student information that was already in the portal for easy access by teachers.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools soon will make it possible for students, teachers, and staff to use their own devices on the district network. “We anticipated seven years ago that computers would begin to cost less and that wireless access and devices would become more affordable, and therefore more popular,” says Karcher. “Because we saw this coming, we were able to put the kind of infrastructure in place throughout the district to support individuals using their own devices, including broadband wireless-enabled school campuses. The ability to communicate using Lync, and to protect devices with Forefront tools, contributes to the success of the bring-your-own-device program.” The program is scheduled to start in September 2012.

Improved ITS Staff Productivity
Adopting the Enterprise CAL Suite helps Miami-Dade County Public Schools make the most of its human as well as financial resources. “Through attrition and budget cuts, we keep losing technical staff. We would not be able to cover everything this well with so few employees if we did not have powerful tools such as Forefront Endpoint Protection and System Center Configuration Manager 2007 to help safeguard and manage our environment,” says Smith. “We no longer hold weekly meetings dedicated to antivirus efforts, for example. Our software protection works now, so virus worries no longer dominate the ITS priority list; we can focus on other, more strategic efforts.”

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* Enhancing the quality of our students’ online courses with the highly effective chat, polling, and other interactive Lync features makes their experience that much more rewarding. *

Deborah Karcher
Chief Information Officer, Miami-Dade County Public Schools

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Choosing to standardize on a Microsoft technology–based framework also gives ITS staff the benefit of easy integration with each new product. “We avoid rework and headaches and have new solutions up and running in a fraction of the time it would take with a more heterogeneous environment,” says Smith.

Cohesive Student and Agency Network
Because approximately 30 percent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools students change schools within a given year, it is critical for the district to operate as a unit so that students experience as much continuity as possible. “With our integrated, cohesive environment, students and teachers who move to a new school find technology tools with the same look and feel as their old school’s systems, and students can pick up right where they left off in an online curriculum,” says Karcher.

The district also is using technology to extend its collaboration capabilities with other local agencies. In fact, it has a pilot test underway in which it is partnering with the County’s juvenile court system to use Lync video conferencing instead of in-person meetings between the court’s judges and certain students with whom the judges need to communicate. Rather than taking students out of the school and all the way to the judges’ building, the school counselor merely slips the student out of class to confer with the judge over the web from one of the school’s rooms. “We’re seeing reductions in travel logistics, time, and costs, along with diminished class disruption,” says Smith.

Customized Educational Experience
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the district’s technology use is its ability to customize the educational experience for its students. Every student can visit the district’s portal to access course syllabi and electronic textbooks; teachers go to the course site in their portal and see the course curriculum, roster, and pacing guide, along with three years’ of attendance, test scores, and other background data for each student enrolled. “Now our instructors can more easily create instruction that’s personalized and calibrated to the individual student,” says Karcher. “Teachers can create tailored learning plans for their students.”

The ability to better accommodate virtual learning also fosters improved education. “Virtual classes reduce class sizes in our physical classrooms and make smart use of district resources, because instructors can use Lync web conferencing to reach many more students,” says Karcher. “Enhancing the quality of our students’ online courses with the highly effective chat, polling, and other interactive Lync features makes their experience that much more rewarding.”

Microsoft Infrastructure Optimization
With infrastructure optimization, you can build a secure, well-managed, and dynamic core IT infrastructure that can reduce overall IT costs, make better use of resources, and become a strategic asset for the business. The Infrastructure Optimization model—with basic, standardized, rationalized, and dynamic levels—was developed by Microsoft using industry best practices and Microsoft’s own experiences with enterprise customers. The Infrastructure Optimization model provides a maturity framework that is flexible and easily used as a benchmark for technical capability and business value.

For more information about Microsoft infrastructure optimization, go to:
www.microsoft.com/businessproductivity

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Miami-Dade County Public Schools services, call (305) 995-1000 or visit the website at:
www.dadeschools.net

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 40000 employees

Organization Profile

Florida’s Miami-Dade County Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the United States, with more than 40,000 employees serving 345,000 students at 331 school facilities.


Business Situation

The district established a strategy that called for implementing best-of-breed technology solutions and unifying its schools on homogeneous platforms and solutions.


Solution

To cost-effectively support its strategy, Miami-Dade County Public Schools invested in a Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License Suite agreement and the Microsoft Enrollment for Education Solutions license.


Benefits

  • Smart use of financial resources
  • Operational flexibility and productivity
  • Cohesive student and agency network
  • Customized educational experience


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite
  • Active Directory Domain Services
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
  • Microsoft Lync Server 2010
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007
  • Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010
  • Windows 7
  • Microsoft Office Professional 2010
  • Microsoft Office 365 for education
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  • Microsoft .NET Framework

Vertical Industries
  • Education
  • Local Government Agencies

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
Cost Containment

Languages
English

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