4-page Case Study
Posted: 1/3/2012
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St. Lucie County Public Schools School District Provides Flexible Tools for Teachers While Saving $1.2 Million

St. Lucie County Public Schools, a Florida school district, needed to provide its teachers, staff, and administrators with a consistent technology environment to increase system reliability, reduce IT management, and boost productivity. The district invested in a Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License Suite agreement and a Microsoft Enrollment for Education Solutions agreement, which saved it US$1.2 million and provided access to up-to-date technologies such as Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft System Center solutions, among others. The district now is able to affordably standardize its IT environment and provide its teachers, staff, and administrators with advanced communication and collaboration capabilities that maximize their efficiency. As a result, teachers have more time to focus on providing a high-quality education to the 40,000 students they serve.

Situation
St. Lucie County Public Schools serves more than 40,000 kindergarteners through high school students at 42 schools, including several alternative and special education locations. More than 4,000 teachers, staff members, and administrators work together to ensure that all students graduate from safe and caring schools, equipped with knowledge, skills, and the desire to succeed.

Like so many school districts throughout the United States, the economic crisis severely affected budgets for St. Lucie County Public Schools. In response, the district extended its hardware refresh cycle and now keeps computers for seven years before replacing them. It also stretched its phased software rollouts over the course of four years and reduced the size of its IT staff. “We constantly look for affordable ways to provide consistent IT services,” says David Jasa, Information Technology Services Program Manager at St. Lucie County Public Schools. “Losing half our workforce made that service delivery especially challenging and caused us to identify opportunities for further standardization, easier IT management, and more efficient processes.”

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* We’re realizing [US] $350,000 annual cost savings … and have drastically reduced our total cost of ownership by $1.2 million, which is crucial, given the fairly extreme financial constraints in education. *

Terence O'Leary
Assistant Superintendent for Informational and Instructional Technology, St. Lucie County Public Schools

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The district looked closely at its IT infrastructure and found room for improvement. “There was a lot of confusion about licensing, which meant that we were buying some products that we had already licensed,” says Jasa. “We wanted to ensure that our purchasing made the most of our resources while giving us the capabilities we needed.”

The district also had an assortment of technologies that were used for the same purposes. For instance, employees used everything from Corel WordPerfect to Apache OpenOffice to Microsoft Office Word for word processing. “Our IT staff had to really work to get all those programs to work together,” says Jasa. “We wanted an integrated approach, one in which we could just pay for and support a single set of flexible products that worked well together.”

Having so many products in the environment caused problems for non-IT staff too. “St. Lucie teachers, staff, and administrators had to work with numerous data silos, which hampered everyone’s ability to make swift, informed decisions,” says Terence O'Leary, Assistant Superintendent for Informational and Instructional Technology at St. Lucie County Public Schools. “We wanted to bring all that separated data into an integrated digital ecosystem, an enterprise platform of connected systems that would empower our stakeholders to make better decisions on a daily basis, thereby improving both our educational and business processes.” St. Lucie stakeholders include students, teachers, administrators, parents, and other community members.

Solution
In 2011, St. Lucie County Public Schools decided to move away from its IBM Lotus Notes messaging environment and move to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. At the same time, the district looked beyond messaging to discover the kinds of comprehensive licensing options that were available to make technology adoption easier and to help fulfill its IT vision. “We hoped to create an IT environment that could give us reliable, anywhere, anytime access to email and that could expand our communications abilities for greater flexibility,” says O’Leary.

The district decided that the most practical plan was to invest in Microsoft licensing opportunities. It entered into a Microsoft Enrollment for Education Solutions (EES) agreement, which counts licenses based on full-time-equivalent users, rather than devices. This meant that the district could go from licensing 18,000 devices to licensing just 4,000 users and save enough money to embrace more technologies. With this offering, all institution-owned machines were licensed for Windows and Microsoft Office.

The district also invested in a Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License (CAL) Suite agreement, which brings together the latest Microsoft products such as Exchange Server 2010, SharePoint Server 2010, and Forefront Protection Suite, to provide St. Lucie with support for real-time collaboration, security, communications, desktop computer management, and so on. “Once we realized the potential of all the Microsoft products available and included in the Enterprise CAL Suite, we agreed that signing it was the right course of action,” says O’Leary. “We still get to choose from a range of capabilities, but we don’t have to spend all the time and effort managing separate vendors, products, and licenses.”

Finally, the district entered into a Microsoft Enterprise Server Platform Agreement (ESPA), which complements the Enterprise CAL Suite and provides unlimited download and uses of almost all Microsoft server software. St. Lucie has the ability to license the entire district for all included Enterprise CAL Suite and server software for four years, thus removing cost-related delays and other obstacles to its planned initiatives.

Messaging System Migration
The district sought to put its new licensing agreements to work right away. “Migrating from IBM Lotus Notes to Exchange Server 2010 Enterprise was the logical first step in establishing one cohesive environment,” says Jasa.

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* We agreed that signing [the Enterprise CAL Suite agreement] was the right course of action. We still get to choose from a range of capabilities, but we don’t have to spend all the time and effort managing separate vendors, products, and licenses. *

Terence O'Leary
Assistant Superintendent for Informational and Instructional Technology, St. Lucie County Public Schools

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The district’s Lotus Notes infrastructure caused it to have to set up and maintained a separate authentication database because integration with its Active Directory service was too difficult. “We definitely felt the management burden of having multiple systems, especially at the beginning of every school year,” says Jasa. Each of the district’s teachers needed a thick-client Lotus Notes account set up on their classroom computers, even if they were returning to teach in the same room. The creation of these accounts caused a huge spike in IT trouble tickets—IT support staff received as many as 1,500 in one day.

IT staff eliminated that issue in the move to Exchange Server 2010 by giving all employees the Outlook Web App web client. “By switching to an Outlook Web App thin client, we’ve flattened out our service spike because we no longer have to set everyone up with accounts every year,” says O’Leary. “When teachers arrive, they are able to access their email from any computer, with no sacrifice in functionality.”

St. Lucie also added automation to its Outlook Web App implementation, tying the solution to the district’s Active Directory setup and dynamic distribution groups, so that an IT staff member no longer has to manually update email accounts. In fact, office employees in each school can access and update distribution lists and email accounts themselves, which helps teachers, administrators, and staff stay better informed and more current.

The district was able to consolidate its messaging infrastructure during the move to Exchange Server 2010. The previous St. Lucie environment followed a typical hub-and-spoke design, with a centralized hub and approximately one server per location, which meant a total of 40 dispersed Lotus Notes servers to manage. When St. Lucie moved to Exchange Server 2010, IT staff moved everything to two physical host servers and four virtual servers using the Hyper-V technology in the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system. The new six-server environment uses database availability groups to provide automatic, database-level recovery of employee mailboxes. They are replicated so that if one of the servers has a hardware problem, service is automatically switched over to the other server, with no interruption in service, or even awareness of the switch, for users.

The move from Notes to Exchange Server 2010 went smoothly for the district, in part because of the training resources that were available from Microsoft. A group of advanced users and technical instructors took advantage of the Microsoft IT Academy to compile intuitive quick-reference guides, which they sent to all the teachers and other employees prior to the migration. “The guides contained really useful IT Academy information—between them and a couple of 15-minute webinars, we were able to conduct a smooth transition from Lotus Notes to Exchange Server 2010 for our user community,” says O’Leary. In fact, the switch took place on a Monday and by the following Monday, the IT helpdesk no longer received any migration-related calls.

Additional Collaboration Capabilities
In addition to Exchange Server 2010, St. Lucie County Public Schools is taking advantage of the Enterprise CAL Suite to provide more ways for staff members to communicate and collaborate. The district uses an intranet—available to teachers from outside the network—that is based on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. The IT department is redesigning the intranet to make the most of the capabilities available in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, taking a different design approach to add efficiency. For example, rather than cataloging information in a hierarchical folder structure, IT staff want to make the information more readily accessible by giving workers the ability to search using keywords so that they can find what they are looking for, even if they do not know where to look. The district expects to have SharePoint Server 2010 fully deployed by the end of 2012.

St. Lucie also switched its instant messaging (IM) from IBM Sametime to Microsoft Lync Server 2010, which gives it both enhanced instant messaging and real-time presence information. “We fully deployed IM throughout the district, and everyone from teachers to administrators uses it for quick questions and conversations,” says Julie Kittrell, District Network Analyst at St. Lucie County Public Schools. IT staff also added presence functionality, which employees use to reach teachers and other workers as they move from classroom to classroom and among the district’s multiple buildings and campuses.

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* Embracing the Enterprise CAL Suite has helped us go from providing our stakeholders with school-day-only access to information to 24-hours-a-day communications … [and] from being a reactive organization to a proactive one that provides better service to all our school district stakeholders. *

Terence O'Leary
Assistant Superintendent for Informational and Instructional Technology, St. Lucie County Public Schools

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Security Software Enhancements
Making further use of its Enterprise CAL Suite and EES agreements, St. Lucie has replaced its Symantec anti-malware (malicious software) solution with the Microsoft Forefront Protection Suite. The district’s IT staff moved all desktop and portable computers from Symantec Endpoint Protection to Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010. The district also takes advantage of Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway 2010 for safer Internet use. St. Lucie had some issues with its Symantec solution, including a problem with its considerable use of computer resources. “We were delighted at the jump in computer productivity when we installed Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010,” says Jasa. “We can scan at whatever rate we wish because it uses far fewer resources and the PCs run so much faster now.”

St. Lucie is also presently conducting multiple pilot implementations of Microsoft Forefront Protection 2010 for SharePoint, which it hopes to implement throughout the district to further safeguard its environment. “With the Forefront Protection Suite, our computers definitely are better protected now,” says Kittrell. “We’re notified about more threats and preventing more viruses than we did with Symantec.”

Expanded Use of Management Tools
St. Lucie moved from Altiris IT management software to Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007, which also is covered by the Enterprise CAL Suite. The district’s IT department converted some of its support benefits into direct help from a local Microsoft Premier Field Engineer through Microsoft Services Premier Support. “We struggled to get imaging to work properly, and Microsoft Premier Support was instrumental in getting us over the hurdles,” says Jasa. “It’s now working flawlessly.” In fact, St. Lucie valued the guidance and knowledge shared by the Microsoft engineer so much that the district asked him to return several times to help with root-cause analysis to further fine-tune its System Center Configuration Manager 2007 implementation.

The district uses System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 to efficiently manage its Exchange Server 2010 environment, and it plans to adopt Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 for server management. St. Lucie also plans to extend its use of System Center Configuration Manager 2007. “We want to build an accurate database of our current IT assets using data that we collect through System Center Configuration Manager. We’ll incorporate it into our IT Infrastructure Library change-management process to do things like record when a change is made to a PC,” explains Jasa. “We also plan to use System Center Configuration Manager 2007 and its integration with Active Directory to improve our ability to identify and correlate which PCs are used by which employees and to manage those assets remotely, all of which will help IT staff members get more done in less time.”

Future Plans
St. Lucie plans to finalize upgrades of all capable desktop and portable computers from the Windows XP to the Windows 7 Enterprise operating system. “We have been pleasantly surprised to see how well even our older computers work with Windows 7—all you need is one gigabyte of RAM,” says Jasa.

In addition, the district hopes to soon add further capabilities to its messaging environment. For example, St. Lucie is exploring the use of Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging. In September 2011, it launched a pilot test of Exchange Unified Messaging at its central office. St. Lucie previously had an NEC voicemail system but wants to move to Exchange Server 2010 voicemail, in part so that employees can access voicemail messages from a desktop computer and use comprehensive communications, including email messages, from wherever they are. The district plans to expand the pilot implementation to more employees if upcoming budgets and existing phone systems make that possible.

St. Lucie also is working to meet the state of Florida’s mandate that instructional content be digital by 2015. “Instruction is moving toward digital content within the classroom ecosystem,” says O’Leary. “Teaching styles are changing from static lectures at the front of the class to moving around the room. Teachers use wireless-enabled tablet computers to connect to the district’s audio-visual tools and the Internet. We plan to use our Microsoft licensing agreements to continue to successfully incorporate technology in the learning environment.”

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* We lost 48.9 percent of our IT staff due to budget cuts, but now we are not just meeting our service level agreement but actually exceeding it. That’s due in large part to the … tools that we were able to put in place thanks to the Enterprise CAL Suite. *

Terence O'Leary
Assistant Superintendent for Informational and Instructional Technology, St. Lucie County Public Schools

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Benefits
By investing in powerful, integrated technology solutions, St. Lucie County Public Schools is taking steps to optimize its infrastructure, reduce IT management responsibilities, and provide teachers with the instructional tools that they need to support the education of the district’s 40,000 students—all while conserving costs.

Operational and Financial Flexibility with $1.2 Million Cost Savings
The district has found that, in addition to the technological benefits, the Enterprise CAL Suite, ESPA, and EES agreements provide IT staff members with consistent access to technology, minimizing headaches related to software acquisition. “The most important aspect of our Microsoft licensing agreements is the flexibility they give us,” says Jasa. “Without them, we couldn’t standardize the technologies used throughout the district, which we definitely needed to do for educational, productivity, and manageability reasons. Our licensing agreements give us a flexible IT blueprint to use to standardize every computer in every school on the same word-processing, file-sharing operating systems.”

Due to the nature of the EES agreement, all St. Lucie–owned computers are covered by the license, so the district does not have to decide which computers in which schools get upgraded or when. Also, the trio of licensing agreements relieves certain financial-management pressures for St. Lucie IT decision makers, who allocated the up-front licensing cost and now can take advantage of the software throughout the agreements’ durations, without worrying about running out of available funds in the middle of the year.

“We’re realizing [U.S.] $350,000 annual cost savings as a result of selecting the Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite, EES, and ESPA and have drastically reduced our total cost of ownership by $1.2 million, which is crucial for us, given the fairly extreme financial constraints in education,” says O’Leary.

The Microsoft licensing agreements save time for the district’s IT decision makers throughout the year. “Having the Enterprise CAL Suite, EES, and ESPA licensing agreements has turned out to be a huge timesaver, significantly decreasing our administrative burden,” says Jasa. “I now spend just 10 percent of the time I used to devote to product licensing.”

24-Hour Communications + Radically Improved Uptime = Positive User Experience
Establishing a standardized, up-to-date IT environment has helped with overall system reliability throughout the district, improving the work lives of numerous teachers, staff, and administrators. “For example, nearly half of our teachers experienced regular, weekly email system outages due to the unreliability of our older Lotus servers, which was frustrating and wasted their time,” says John Andrianoff, Network Infrastructure Organization Manager at St. Lucie County Public Schools. “Since moving from Lotus Notes to Exchange Server 2010, there has been only one outage in the entire district, and users appreciate that email is there for them when they need it.”

From an educational perspective, St. Lucie students now enjoy a more stable, user-friendly experience because every school in the county offers the same software. Students and teachers who change schools no longer have to learn a new set of products and versions. That consistency helps reduce the number of professional development hours that teachers need to devote to learning different software systems, and they can put that time to more productive use in the classroom.

In addition, teachers and administrators have access to important information—grades, assignments, contact data, email, student discipline history, and so on—wherever and whenever they need it. “Embracing the Enterprise CAL Suite has helped us go from providing our stakeholders with school-day-only access to information to 24-hours-a-day communications,” says O’Leary. “As a result of our transition to an environment based on Microsoft technology, we have moved from being a reactive organization to a proactive one that provides better service to all our school district stakeholders.”

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* We all are trying to do more in a given day, and we use the Enterprise CAL Suite to help us do that. We are able to work faster and improve communications to help teachers, administrators, and staff stay better informed and focus their time and efforts on supporting student education. *

Terence O'Leary
Assistant Superintendent for Informational and Instructional Technology, St. Lucie County Public Schools

*
Greater IT Staff Efficiency
The choice to standardize its technology and adopt more comprehensive IT management tools through the Enterprise CAL Suite has made a real difference for the 50-member IT staff at St. Lucie. “We’ve seen great improvements in IT staff productivity since moving from Symantec to Microsoft management tools,” says Jasa. “For example, we used to have to touch every computer multiple times to install a new image. Now, by using System Center Configuration Manager, if the computer is on, the imaging process kicks off by itself.” The district also notes efficiency benefits in the difference between its former Altiris software, which required site-by-site management, and its centralized System Center Configuration Manager 2007 solution.

St. Lucie teachers and administrators now experience the same or better IT support levels as they did before the district had to halve its IT staff. “We lost 48.9 percent of our IT staff due to budget cuts, but now we are not just meeting our service level agreement but actually exceeding it,” says Jasa. “That’s due in large part to the efficiencies we’ve gained from the standardization, automation, and management tools that we were able to put in place thanks to the Enterprise CAL Suite.”

St. Lucie has gone from needing a minimum of three IT staff members dedicated just to creating email accounts for teachers at the start of the school year to only Kittrell handling any necessary account setup on her own. “Establishing our Exchange Server 2010 messaging environment also has meant that we no longer have to send IT technicians to every school to deal with Lotus Notes servers, move email accounts, and so on,” says Kittrell. “Of course, we’re no less busy in the IT department, but we’re devoting our time to other, more strategic endeavors.”

Improved standardization and management over its IT assets has made a real difference for St. Lucie. One example is the way it has helped satisfy a Florida state mandate that requires all students to use school computers for student assessments. “The district IT staff has to make absolutely sure that all the necessary school computers are in perfect working condition before and during every assessment,” says Andrianoff. “That used to take 42 field IT staff members, one for every school, but today just 15 technicians and two analysts can handle everything.”

Increased Teacher Productivity for Greater Focus on Education
Perhaps best of all, the district’s teachers now have reliable, flexible tools that they can use to spend more time on education. “The level of email access and communications capabilities that we have introduced into the St. Lucie environment has had a major impact for teachers,” says Jasa. “Our nightmare at the start of the school year, in which it took us a month to get all our teachers able to communicate properly, is finally over. Teachers never have to wait, without email, for IT to set up a new email account.”

“By providing tools such as Outlook Web App, we’re helping our teachers from a productivity and ease-of-use point of view,” adds Kittrell. Unlike with the Notes web client, employees have jumped right into using Outlook Web App because it is far more user-friendly and gives them so much functionality.” Employees now can access their email accounts from anywhere using a mobile device, a home computer, or any of the devices throughout the district’s schools. “Teachers especially have welcomed the flexibility of being able to leave the school building at the end of the day and still take care of email correspondence and other tasks from home,” says Kittrell.

The district expects that a key aspect of its new work-from-anywhere capabilities will be Exchange Unified Messaging, especially once that functionality is expanded for district-wide use. “I love Exchange Unified Messaging,” says O’Leary. “On my morning commute, I use voice commands to access my calendar to prepare for the coming day. I also use Exchange Unified Messaging to stay synced on my frequent drives between our different locations throughout the county. I’m now able to make the most of what otherwise would be unproductive time in the car.”

St. Lucie County Public Schools also believes that upcoming changes to its intranet will have a positive effect on productivity because they will make working together so much easier. “By implementing more advanced SharePoint Server 2010 functionality that makes our intranet easier to use, we will increase collaboration by encouraging the use of department sites for sharing documents, calendars, and other information,” says Andrianoff. “Another advantage of using the intranet to store and exchange all information is that it removes worries about version control and outdated documents.”

“We all are trying to do more in a given day, and we use the Enterprise CAL Suite, EES, and ESPA to help us do that. We are able to work faster and improve communications to help teachers, administrators, and staff stay better informed and focus their time and efforts on supporting student education,” says O’Leary.

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 St. Lucie County Public Schools products and services, call (772) 429-3600 or visit the website at:
www.stlucieschools.org

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 4200 employees

Organization Profile

Fort Pierce, Florida–based St. Lucie County Public Schools serves 40,000 students at 42 schools. Its staff of more than 4,200 aims to create challenging, engaging, and satisfying work for every student, every day.


Business Situation

The district’s technology mix made it difficult for employees to communicate and for IT staff to manage the environment. Issues became increasingly difficult to resolve due to shrinking budgets.


Solution

The district decided to standardize its technology environment, entering into a Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License Suite agreement and Microsoft Enrollment for Education Solutions Agreement to conserve costs.


Benefits

  • Operational and financial flexibility
  • More consistent user experience
  • Greater IT staff efficiency
  • Increased teacher productivity


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Enterprise
  • Microsoft Lync Server 2010
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007
  • Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2
  • Microsoft Forefront
  • Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010
  • Microsoft Forefront Protection 2010 For Exchange Server
  • Microsoft Forefront Protection 2010 For Sharepoint
  • Windows 7 Enterprise
  • Microsoft Hyper-V

Vertical Industries
Education

Country/Region
United States

Languages
English

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