Pawnee Public Schools

IT Infrastructure

Pawnee Public Schools

Pawnee Schools

Pawnee Public Schools is a school district located in Pawnee, OK.

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A city named Pawnee can be found in no fewer than ten states in the Midwest. But there is only one Pawnee, Oklahoma. Located in the northeast part of the state, Pawnee is relatively close to InterWorks’ headquarters in Stillwater. So, it came as no surprise when Pawnee Public Schools called our CEO, Behfar Jahanshahi, to install network cables all the way back in 1999, when InterWorks was making a name for itself as a rising IT company in Oklahoma.

Pawnee Public Schools continually chose InterWorks as their IT service provider at the end of each school year for the following year. InterWorks has worked with Pawnee Public Schools for over 18 years now! Although Behfar may no longer be personally installing hardware, Pawnee Schools have been in the capable hands of Todd Walls since 2007. Pawnee’s IT needs have only evolved as technology has and InterWorks has met each challenge with a solution time and again.

“InterWorks has helped us meet and achieve our goals. They installed our first network cabling over 18 years ago and continue to work with us to implement new projects.”

– Cheryl Ryan, Finance Director, Pawnee Schools

Out with the Old …

Pawnee Schools initially faced many challenges. For years, Pawnee Schools only had 3.0 Mbps internet bandwidth. For comparison sake, 1-3 Mbps is the bare minimum a single internet user would need to access basic necessities, such as email. As multiple users access the internet, that bandwidth begins to slow down for everyone. Needless to say, Pawnee Schools’ bandwidth was overdue for an upgrade.

Room for Improvement

  • Low internet bandwidth
  • Outdated workstations and servers
  • Network cabling
  • Content filtering system

Ten years ago, when Todd began working with Pawnee Schools, their workstations and servers were outdated and overused. There simply were not enough computers for the students to use or utilize educational resources online.

Wireless access became a necessity over the last decade. This was a time before a person’s first question upon entering a new place was “What’s the WiFi password?” Wireless access was simply not available school wide or a necessity like it is today. Wireless capability was only in various spots around the school and it could only be used by laptops stored in carts.

“There are occasions when immediate needs arise and Todd understands the importance of resolving the issue in a timely manner. If Todd is not available, someone else from his team at InterWorks will work with me to resolve our issue. It has always been a quick response with a rapid turnaround to rectify our problem.”

– Valerie Young, IT Technician, Pawnee Schools

Another key issue in need of attention was Pawnee Schools’ messaging capabilities. Email and chat were exclusively used on Outlook and Yahoo Messenger. Yahoo Messenger had limited capacity and the teachers created their own personal accounts to use at school causing plenty of confusion.

A hardware challenge Pawnee Schools has faced over the years was their network cabling. The network cabling between buildings was using Category 5 copper, not dependable at all. It forced network connections between buildings into a daisy chain, dependent on every link in that chain to not go down, or else 50-100% of the network would go down in domino effect just because one link failed.

The most pressing problem Pawnee Schools faced, however, was their content filtering system. The system they had in place required a user to specify individually which websites to block. Pawnee Schools was using SmarterFilter to block specific pages, instead of a list of search terms.

… in with the New

Straight A’s

  • LightSpeed Content Filtering system
  • Upgraded network bandwidth
  • Computer inventory refreshment
  • Fiber cabling

The first problem InterWorks addressed was Pawnee Schools’ need for a more in depth content filtering system. We upgraded them from Smarterfilter to McAfee Webwasher and now their current filtering system, LightSpeed. This was a complex problem for InterWorks specifically, because our client’s needs typically do not require in-depth content filtering, the kind that is necessary for schools. LightSpeed provides many new features for administration. The most favored is the ability to filter based on search terms in addition to URL address categories. LightSpeed can also send custom reports to administration with data regarding what suspicious search queries were placed, by whom, what time and on which computer. This was a huge benefit in the eyes of administration to gain this ability to better govern their users and insure a safer environment.

Further solutions InterWorks implemented for Pawnee Schools includes upgrading their network bandwidth from 3.0 Mbps to their current bandwidth of 700 and next year they will be upgraded to 1 Gbps. Pawnee Schools is now utilizing virtual servers rather than storing several on a rack. This is cost-effective and allows the district to no longer spend money on buying several servers, and simply use virtual servers.

InterWorks has also helped Pawnee Schools’ overall computer inventory refreshment through help from CDI, an organization that buys leased computers from large companies and sells them to schools at very low prices with included five-year warranties. The lower cost of refreshment helps Pawnee Schools aim for a shorter refreshment period for computer hardware. This solution is also financially sound in that Pawnee Schools does not have to buy expensive new computers for their students anymore and can allocate that money elsewhere.

“It has been our goal to provide internet access to all students and teachers, while ensuring our network is secure and filtered. InterWorks has continually assisted us and provided valuable network services, including fiber and wireless access points.”

– Cheryl Ryan, Finance Director, Pawnee Schools

The improvements don’t stop yet, though. Staff communication has become more efficient since installing Ruckus Wireless district wide. Staff members are now able to bring their own devices and connect to the WiFi at any site. The email and chat functionality has also been improved. InterWorks switched all of Pawnee Schools, teachers and students, from using Outlook and Yahoo Messenger to G Suite, Google applications. Google has made these online services free to schools across the nation and InterWorks took advantage. Now, email is easily accessed from from virtually any location. All chat capability is accessed through gmail also. Students have now been added to G Suite as well, providing better communication between teachers and students.

The most recent refurbishment, installed last summer, was the change from copper network cabling to fiber. InterWorks had fiber installed everywhere. This linked all school district buildings in a way that provides faster, more reliable connectivity. No more daisy chains! Now, the school system operates as a single network instead of in fragments. When one switch fails, there is less chance of domino effect and fewer single points of failure.

Don’t Stop Me Now!

The future partnership with Pawnee Schools looks bright indeed, due to the recent acquisition of over 500 Chromebooks for the entire school district! This means every student and teacher from 6th to 12th grade will have access to one and the elementary school’s access includes 30 for each grade. Obviously, this will be quite the project for their InterWorks team, but also an opportunity for a challenge, something we love to tackle. InterWorks has essentially upgraded Pawnee Schools in every technical capacity, whether that entails cables, internet browsing, data switches or computer hardware, InterWorks has improved their use of technology.

“Having reliable, consistent support from Todd Walls and his team at InterWorks enables Pawnee Public Schools to function at a higher level of capacity. Todd and his team know our infrastructure without having to familiarize themselves with our system. That saves valuable time and effort on both sides.”

– Valerie Young, IT Technician, Pawnee Schools

For our team of engineers, Pawnee Schools is more than a client. It’s more of a passion project to ensure that the administration, teachers and their students are given the top digital resources to successfully educate and serve their students. For the students of a relatively smaller school district, InterWorks hopes to continue providing Pawnee students with opportunities found in bigger school districts.

Since the beginning of our work with Pawnee Schools, InterWorks has always been very passionate about client relations. The InterWorks IT team is adept at communicating with the administration of Pawnee Schools, preferring to collaborate with them rather than dictate their needs. InterWorks is clearly surpassing our client’s needs, especially Pawnee Public Schools due to our lasting partnership with them over the last two decades due to InterWorks’ IT administrators and their continued customer care.

“We trust InterWorks to provide the best solutions at the best price. Their work ethics include integrity, emphasis and a sense of teamwork. We have a trusting relationship with them and value the company’s ability to give us honest feedback. They do their best to produce great work. InterWorks employees work together to meet goals and deliver quality work.”

– Cheryl Ryan, Finance Director, Pawnee Schools

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