Advancing The Quality Of Education With Innovation And One-Hundred Thousand Unique Devices

Bob Nilsson Director, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 16 Apr 2019

“Forsyth County Schools has long been known as forward-thinking when it comes to technology, and we’re a rapidly growing school district.” – Curt Godwin, network operations coordinator

Forsyth County Schools: A Growing District Known for Tech-Driven Curriculum

Forsyth County Schools is not your average public school district. While technology is driving curriculum development throughout the U.S., Forsyth takes it to another level.

The use of technology, whether a BYOD student device or one of 27,000 Chromebooks made available by the school system, is part and parcel to the personalized learning experience throughout the district of Forsyth. The community is largely comprised of residents who understand the role of technology in education. Thanks to the overwhelming support of parents, the board, and administration, the district is able to continuously add to the tech implementation program they’ve instituted in recent years.

Though not a full 1:1 computing district, Forsyth has just added 27,000 Chromebooks, the equivalent of 10 per classroom. These share the network with Interactive Clear Touch whiteboard panels, 1500 video cameras, door locks, HVAC control, and teacher devices, so access to network resources must be tightly controlled. As a pilot site for the Georgia Department of Education online testing program, the district and the state have the utmost confidence in the network. Almost all students (95-99%) will take testing using wireless student devices.

Quality Education Continues to Spur Rapid Growth

It’s not just the intentional integration of technology that makes Forsyth unique and challenging. It’s their size and unprecedented continued growth. Forsyth is a highly desirable school district, and thanks to their commitment to delivering quality education, the district continues to enroll an additional 1,500-1,800 students annually.

Some fast facts:

  • 50,000 students
  • 6,500 staff
  • 37 schools
  • 4,659 access points

Plus, tech doesn’t stop at the classroom. The district is IoT positive, with HVAC, locks and LED remote-controlled lighting connected to the network, all managed by the IT team. With a multitude of locations, countless students, staff, and devices, and a reliance on IoT for infrastructure operations, you’d think Forsyth would have to rely on extensive staff to maintain wireless connectivity. The consequences of downtime would be extremely disruptive.

Successfully Managing a Massive Network …with Only 5 Network Admins

Surprisingly, the IT team at Forsyth consists of only five people, responsible for managing a massive network that supports over 55,000 users and 100,000 district-owned wireless devices on a daily basis. Let’s talk a little bit about how they do it.

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First off, one of our partners, Lockstep Technology Group, bridged Extreme’s relationship with Forsyth County School District. Lockstep and Forsyth have worked together closely since the early 2000s. “Forsyth is known for their innovation. They built out a large fiber network, so they’d have high-speed connectivity to the internet throughout their schools,” recalls James Harden, Managing Partner at Lockstep. “The key things they’ve been focused on that Extreme solutions support our network automation and providing excellent service delivery to end users.”

Forsyth achieves its primary objectives securely using automated provisioning with a combination of Extreme Management Center and ExtremeControl. Managing such an extensive network manually would be impossible with only five team members. However, ExtremeControl manages users and devices across networks with granular visibility and in-depth control.

Extreme Control

  • Automatically onboards guests and IoT devices with easy and secure predefined templates for non-IT personnel
  • Enables consistent policy roll-out across the entire network
  • Enhances security with agent-based and agentless assessment option

Extreme Management Center

  • Alerts IT to issues based on set thresholds and clears them once they’re solved
  • Manages devices across vendors for a complete picture of the heterogeneous network

Our partner, Charlie Van Pelt, vice president of sales at Lockstep, explained that K-12 districts of today are highly focused on service improvement. “We made sure that Forsyth knew Extreme delivers on analytics and automation. Extreme is great at working with partners like us to articulate their vision, which allows us to deliver that to the customer.”

Curious about the full story behind our network upgrade with Forsyth County Schools? Read the case study here.

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