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Kathy N.

Funding was approved in the Fall of 2018 for District 11 to replace an Avaya phone system that was end of life and support in 2019. The District request included requirements for mobile phone clients and video conferencing services. Our goal was to not only replace an outdated phone system but to provide state of the art services for staff that would let them be more mobile and have access to more current technology.

The Cisco Unified Communication Manager was proposed for the telephone services which included Jabber to provide our staff with a mobile client they can use on a computer, tablets and mobile phones. Installation of CUCM completed in December, 2019 and included a site by site training the day after each cut. While many staff didn’t initially embrace Jabber and preferred to use their desk phone, Jabber has become an integral tool for them since March 13, 2020. Currently we average about one fourth of our staff logged in using Jabber on a daily basis. District administrative staff use it to work from home in order to continue to respond to calls from parents, students, other staff and outside contacts.

Teacher’s were especially thankful to have this available to them. It allows them to keep their personal contact information private but still interact with students and parents. It also let them control when they were available to take calls and set specific “office” hours.

Webex has become the official conference and meeting tool for the District. We completed our last official training on March 12, 2020. The day before the District decided to close for a 2 week unscheduled Spring Break in order to prepare for Remote Learning. During the 2 week break, we prepared additional resource documentation and videos for staff and parents which were posted on a dedicated Distance Learning website. We used many of the Cisco Education resources and also created resources that provided District specific information.

Since we are a K12 school district with about 50 locations, we were only able to work in the schools over the summer and after school. We were able to complete about 1/2 of our installs during the Summer of 2019 and completed the remaining with about 4 locations per week through December, 2019. Our biggest challenge was training staff on the new system. We have one technology support person at each building that we provided training for and then they were responsible for working with us to train the remaining staff. With at least 50 people at each site, only 3 trainers and no specific training classes, it was a challenge to educate staff on all the features.

We were able to provide Webex classes during the Spring of 2020 but attendance was slim. Coincidentally the last class was held on Thursday, March 12, and the District announced they were closing at the end of the day on Friday, March 13. In order to help staff, we scheduled additional Webex classes for the first week of April. I also announced that staff could contact me anytime and I could join an ongoing meeting or class to help with any issues or questions. Several of the technology support contacts at the schools also scheduled a training session with their staff. I would review the Webex application for about 30 minutes and then open it up for Q&A. During the Q&A I would not only answer questions but also give the attendees the opportunities to use the Share feature, make them Host so they could view their options and navigate any other features they were interested in. We would also briefly discuss how to manage attendees using the Mute All options, raising hands and expelling participants.

Our next step is to provide Hands-on Labs for teachers. This was not originally provisioned for us so we are working with Cisco TAC to enable the features so our desktop support team can begin installing the Webex Access Anywhere app on District computers. Teachers are excited for this application so students can access District purchased applications in our computer labs during scheduled class time as well as work on projects independently at their leisure.

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