Schools across the US rely on technology to deliver powerful educational experiences. Our continual national expansion, as a managed services provider (MSP) for schools and educational organizations, excites us because we’re seeing those results continually, which aligns perfectly with our mission.
Schools prepare kids for college or the career of their choice. But there’s no ‘generic school. Each has a unique mission or emphasis designed to achieve that goal. Technology is critical to extend and accelerate that process, making a school’s priorities more attainable. It goes beyond students becoming ‘tech-savvy’ to deploying the optimal technologies for extending the learning experience overall.
If learners are the point, and teachers and learning professionals are the heroes, behind that reality are busy administrators working tirelessly to facilitate the educational outcome on a grand scale. Worrying about reliable technology and support for staff and students just adds to their plates. So we are taking that burden off their shoulders, allowing them to focus on their priorities of academic instruction.
Plenty of local MSPs are available to help. So why would a school or educational organization reach out to a national ISP whose national headquarters is in the largest (by population) city in the US—New York?
Recently a school in Atlanta did just that. Like most charter schools, they already had an MSP, but they weren’t happy with it. The reasons can range from devices not being supported in the way they’re actually used (in an instructional environment) to a continual burden getting issues (all technology users have them) resolved in a timely manner—allowing learning to continue. The school’s priorities and the MSP’s priorities may not actually align.
That school went with us over a local MSP, because our brand stood for reliability and consistency that actually lifts the weight of infrastructure and tech off their plates. But also, technology for education is a specific focus. There’s no generic application of technical infrastructure. It is ALWAYS specific to the use case, and the highest priorities must be (in this case) student outcomes and school performance. Merely focusing on technology, for its own sake, won’t cut it.
A reputation for building excellent schools, and an immense amount of experience in charter school settings, trumps location entirely. In fact, the recent eruption of a pandemic has weakened (perhaps forever) the importance of specific location, as schools are virtualizing education and requiring a high-level of remote support. A lot of schools are considering permanent virtual components in their model, moving forward. It’s a learning process for schools, and IT services companies MUST adapt to that.
Schools choose technology partners on the basis of the time they make for the client, where there’s no alternative or excuse but to shine in the initial interactions, and whether or not they ‘get it’—namely that this is technology for education, specifically. The choice isn’t based on just a list of things the firm provides but rests heavily on WHO WE ARE.
For the school in Atlanta, we accepted the challenge of optimizing remote learning combined with the need for remote support. 90% of the support has been remote, with our capacity to execute remotely augmented by sending people to the (currently closed) facility where needed. We refer to the arrangement with this school as “Total Care.” They have no need for an outsourced IT team, as some schools do, but there is a lot to do that exceeds the capacity of an in-house IT department.
That includes a build-out that equips all rooms with projectors, document cameras, Chromebooks and technology carts, support for staff devices (which we can remote in and fix), and deployment of new instructional software to staff machines. In addition, this particular school relies heavily on access card readers to ensure the security of their building, video intercoms at main entrances, access points at other doors, keycards for teachers, etc. There’s a phone network in the building that needs support and deploying and maintaining an entire wireless system that ensures connectivity in every classroom. It gets granular—all the way down to providing unified support for all student Chromebooks at once, along with the ability to take on ill-defined problems.
It’s not just a school in Atlanta. The level of need is typical, whether it’s a school we serve in Hayward, California, or a pair of schools in Buffalo. The specific needs are always unique, and THAT is an important point for any MSP to grasp.
At CTS, our brand is “Technology for Education.” For us, continually expanding to serve schools across the nation extends our reach and range of solutions even farther for all schools. Senior Client Manager at CTS, Zach McGaugh, is typical of our attitude:
Like a lot of us, I worked in schools prior to joining CTS. I know the hard work and hours it takes to run a school and create a successful learning culture. Technology is an enormous part of that. I’m always excited when we commit to supporting a school’s organizational priorities and managing school technology projects that broaden our geographic horizon.
When an existing school moves on from a prior MSP, the norm is a period of time that ensures all parties have the resources to create a smooth transition. That’s even more important when something like school closures is already providing an initial disruption. Not everyone leaves a current vendor smoothly, however. When the change is abrupt, it means we scramble. The fact that we’re already equipped to act remotely with an unparalleled level of expertise and commitment also rests on ‘getting it’—that technology for education is special. Education is not an afterthought—it’s the point.
In Atlanta, we needed to access school buildings during a shutdown, so we immediately put boots on the ground to rapidly re-map the architecture and ensure connectivity continued uninterrupted. In cases like this, we work extremely quickly to replace vendor-owned equipment, forensically map and create the right access to the network, and work around the absence of some equipment while we obtain the additional pieces of infrastructure needed. The result is a school continuing to conduct powerful remote education that is also ready to return to face to face instruction when the decision is made to do so.
A transition like that in a time like this might sound heroic, but it occurs because of the long-standing expertise of some of our own everyday heroes.
- A client manager that handled communications between all participants with style and who serves as a single point of contact for the school.
- A senior systems engineer that builds the infrastructure for a school’s WIFI and wireless system, who knows the products and configurations, and just makes everything work smoothly.
- A director of client management who continuously ensures the technical outputs align with a school’s educational priorities.
- A senior project manager who allocates the resources needed to achieve those goals.
- An entire crew of people seamlessly supporting the process and the school’s ongoing technology needs from several practice areas.
In effect, the school gets an “A-Team” of people with a singleminded focus on the school’s educational priorities and results. That’s the stuff that makes us love what we do, and we get to bask in the pride of shared ownership of those outcomes that show themselves in student advancement, school growth, and the increased opportunities of our own firm to serve school’s missions.