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IT Department Challenges
Posted 7/24/18

There are several challenges that Fremont Unified School District's IT Department faces:

 

1. Inconsistent/substandard structured cabling

2. Inconsistent/substandard networking equipment

3. Inconsistent/substandard/donated server equipment 

4. Vintage/obsolete/donated/varied workstations

5. Lack of standard hardware/refresh cycle 

6. Understaffing

7. Inconsistent software deployment

8. Undefined/poorly documented processes and procedures.

9. Lack of detailed current hardware inventory.

10. Lack of consistent district-wide Active Directory structure

11. Lack of remote support

12. Increasing demand for bandwidth

 

What are we doing to address these issues?

1. Increase Support Staff 

The school board recently approved the addition of several support positions:

6 additional IT Support Specialist positions

4 additional Lead IT Support Specialist positions

2 new Systems Specialist positions

1 additional Data Specialist position

1 additional Electronics Technician position

 

You can view our new department structure here.

 

2. Introduce New Computers and Remove Old Computers From Service

We have implemented a hardware refresh cycle. This will move the old, obsolete technology out and bring in new, current technology. Our first step towards this was with a purchase of 2300 laptops for our staff and students in September 2013. We've been able to purchase Chromebooks in our subsequent cycles.

  

3. Increase Staff Efficiency 

We are looking at ways to provide support more efficiently. One of these ways is to be able to provide support remotely. We are looking at several products to be able to do this so that our IT staff can try resolving the issue remotely, first. If it can save a trip to the school site and save travel time we can be more efficient.

 

We have also implemented a new Student Information System (Illuminate Student Information). This will help us keep up with ever-changing State Data Reporting requirements and also allow staff to access the data they need much more quickly and efficiently. 

 

Another way we are improving efficiency is introducing computerized automation for repetitive tasks. One project that will increase efficiency is our Account Management Automation project. This will allow us to onboard new staff much more efficiently by creating the required accounts (there are several) such as email, website, computer and server login accounts, Google Apps, automatically.

 

4. Ensure a Solid Network Foundation 

Substandard structured cabling is a very big issue. In touring the school sites we can see different ranges of quality, age and consistency. Much of our network cabling was pulled during the "Net Day" events that took place in the '90s. The primary goal was to get the classrooms and the school "connected" to the Internet. Often times, cabling standards were not adhered to, resulting in substandard, out-of-specification cable runs and out-of-code installs. More often than not this work hasn't been documented properly, or the labeling at the patch panel hasn't been done, resulting in longer troubleshooting times.

 

Addressing these structured cabling issues is a part of our long term facilities plan. Measure E general obligation bond was approved on June 3, 2014. Every school will receive structured cabling work to bring things up to standards and ensure that the work follows network standards and building code. Each classroom should have a standard number of functional network drops to ensure that we are ready for current technology such as VOIP and Wifi, better emergency notification systems such as classroom paging systems, accurate clocks, bell and speaker systems, and enough bandwidth for all of our staff and students.

 

5. Increasing Available Bandwidth 

The animated graph below shows the district's internet circuit utilization from November 2013 to November 2016. Each second of the .gif is equivalent to 1 week and clearly shows the increasing demands being put upon our network. On August 2016 we increased the bandwidth on a critical circuit and each graph after that shows increased peak utilization.