McMinn County School System

Going All Purple Reduces Network Complexity and Total Cost of Ownership

The mission of McMinn County School System is to equip students for life-long learning through academics, accountability, and learning experiences. McMinn has made it their goal to provide students with the highest quality education. They are committed to assisting the 5,600 students across their nine schools achieve their greatest potential by adapting and adjusting to the ever-changing world.

Recognizing that reliable network connectivity is essential to meeting their goal, McMinn decided to go all purple with a total Extreme Networks solution and improved wireless network performance by 97%, saved $15-20,000 in labor costs, increased throughput and access by 70%, and reduced their Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

The Struggle to Provide Reliable Connectivity

Prior to their new network solution, McMinn was faced with an over- loaded network that provided limited bandwidth and unreliable connectivity. Their BYOD program was taxing the network heavily, especially at the two high schools where the number of students using devices was larger. The existing network struggled to handle all users and often dropped connections or entire sections of the Wi-Fi network.

With a new 1:1 initiative planned to launch in 48 classrooms in the coming school year, the district knew they needed to upgrade the network to handle the increased load. Their CTE and Mechanomics curricula at the high schools and an extensive robotics program at every elementary school also depended on the network for enhanced learning experiences. It became obvious to the McMinn County School System that it was time to put a more resilient and reliable networking solution in place.

McMinn would need a way to easily and effectively manage and control users and devices. The network had to o er instant access and seamless connectivity to the applications students use, while also keeping them safe.

Complete Resiliency Unleashes Unlimited Learning Potential

The goal of McMinn’s CTO, Jill Pierce, was to implement a resilient and reliable network to increase student and teacher productivity and minimize network downtime. “We wanted complete resiliency in the network so that if anything had to be replaced or went down, the network could be back up and running in 30 minutes or less.”

McMinn started their search for a networking partner with an open E-Rate RFP. Leading up to the RFP, they had looked for and analyzed bottlenecks and points of failure on the current network that would need to be improved with the new infrastructure. According to Pierce, “Extreme competed against everyone, and beat them all hands down. Ultimately, we felt that for the durability, compatibility, and price, Extreme was the only way to go.”

McMinn initially planned to upgrade only the access points and older switches – but they ended up deciding to replace the entire network with a total solution from Extreme Networks.

Working with their implementation partner, Central Technologies, they replaced all the switches and put in a secondary Wi-Fi controller so they would have complete back up. “The flexibility of the stackable switches was a huge plus and allows us to meet our goal of getting the network back up and running within 30 minutes of going offline,” said Pierce.

Better Meeting Students Needs with a Total Network Solution

McMinn decided to streamline their network with a complete solution to help reduce TCO and time on task. Pierce notes, “We went with a total solution for our networking needs because I think it’s the only way to go. When vendors fight about problems on the network, time and money is wasted and it impacts classroom learning because students can’t connect to the network for enhanced learning. By going all purple, these issues are eliminated and we spend less time managing the network which brings us huge savings.”

In addition to saving time managing the network, the cost savings have been tremendous. “In the first month that we had the network fully implemented, we saw immediate improvement in connections, accessibility, and reliability. We have cut down 97% of Wi-Fi issues since last summer and have saved between $15-20,000 in summer labor alone.” These savings will allow McMinn to invest in other projects and give the IT team more time to work on other projects helping their students.

Immediate Return on Investment

“We are seeing the reward of having a really powerful and reliable network,” said Pierce, “The BYOD program is much easier to manage with the ability to track users and support more users per access point, enabling us to meet these students’ connectivity needs and enable better learning experiences.” In one board room, McMinn was able to reduce the number of APs from four to just one. “The single Extreme AP is already giving us better service than four of our old vendor’s APs,” she told us.

For schools, seamless roaming from AP-to-AP is very important. By increasing throughput and access by about 70% with the new infrastructure, the IT team at McMinn never has to worry about this. The students can pick up their laptop and continue their downloading as they walk down the hall without any interruptions.

The single pane of glass visibility that is part of Extreme Management gives the IT team the ability to pinpoint problems immediately.

Managing users and controlling what students do on the network goes a long way in keeping them safe. “We didn’t have this type of control before,” shared Pierce, “I don’t want to limit our kids, but I do want to keep them safe. Extreme allows me to do this without having to be onsite.”

Extreme Analytics will be used for everything from tracking application usage, monitoring bandwidth, monitoring user activity, looking for bottlenecks, troubleshooting, and future planning of where additional APs will be needed to ll any gaps. Jill adds, “Our future plans are to have two large screens to constantly display Extreme Analytics data. This level of network insight will give us real data on how much more effective we are with our new Extreme Networks solution.” Pierce also notes, “This project would not have occurred without the huge support the IT department received from the Director of Schools Mickey Blevins and the school board. Both have been extremely pleased with the results and return on investment for the district.”

Future Ready

Pierce describes the overall experience of working with Extreme as “fantastic”. “I’m very hard on vendors to make sure they come through on customer service and I’ve been very pleased with the reaction time we’ve gotten with Extreme and Central Technologies,” said Pierce. “The solution allows us to spend less time on the network so we can concentrate on the students.”

McMinn is ready to do statewide online testing and Pierce has no doubts that their Extreme network will be able to handle the load. “We are more than ready once the state gets there.” No matter what they throw at the Wi-Fi network, it “works like a champ.” The new network enables McMinn to spend their time on other projects like upgrading all our classrooms with touch panels. They also plan to do more with programming, gamification, VR, robotics, outdoor wireless, and 4K video.

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