Information & Technology (I&T) is charged with the design, implementation and management of the district's technology architecture, infrastructure and major technology systems.
Classroom Tech Standards
I&T is able to support school LANs and end-user devices because of standards-based procurement. Within every classroom in a Broward County Public School, you will find a telephone, Ethernet ports, and ample power outlI&T. Each school has student laptops in wireless carts at the ratio of 1 laptop per 6 students to have access to wireless laptops and Internet connectivity. All Media Centers have wireless overlays providing wireless Internet access. In addition, 50% of the schools have an entire campus wireless overlay providing wireless connectivity anywhere on campus. The I&T department has a plan for wireless overlays for the remaining school campuses. There is a Digital Classroom specification that includes interactive white board, projector, and digital devices, and over 2,000 classrooms have been upgraded to the Digital Classroom specification. Here are a few factoids regarding our classrooms.
Telephone (Migration to VoIP underway)
All Media Centers Wireless
107 schools with full campus wireless overlay
126 schools VoIP conversion
3,318 Digital Classroom
30,000 phone lines and 47,000 phone sI&T
The School Board of Broward County recently migrated to a Central iSeries that contains student data for the current school year and the previous school year. The iSeries contains a very large database with approximately 600,000 records and 450 searchable fields. Data stored on the iSeries are manipulated in a variety of ways to produce a variety of reports that assist the daily operations of schools and departments. The iSeries also houses the inventory database of all equipment purchased by the SBBC. Parents or guardians of students can also access reports generated by the iSeries to check the academic status of their child.
The School Board also uses a mainframe that houses the SAP Payroll system and the COMPASS inventory management system. The mainframe uses the DB2 database system for security and efficiency.
I&T manages the district's E-Rate program. Each year, I&T applies for E-Rate funding to upgrade the wired and wireless infrastructure of eligible schools and pay for the majority of our telecom bills. Based on the Free/Reduced Lunch (FRL) rate of the eligible school, up to 90% of the infrastructure costs of networking equipment is reimbursed to the school district. In the 2009/2010 school year, I&T was successfully awarded E-Rate funding for 61 schools to upgrade the phone systems to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) refresh aging network equipment and install wireless campus overlays. For an outlay of $9M, the schools received $27M in upgrades. To date, the E-Rate program has brought in over $65 million dollars.
E-Rate Overview for Schools & Libraries
Major Data Systems
I&T is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the district's major data systems. The Student Information System (SIS), also called TERMS, maintains all student and school information, and is one of the most important data systems in the district. It contains all current student information, as well as scheduling, discipline, and demographics. Student data is submitted regularly to the State Department of Education to receive funding. I&T programmers implement state-mandated changes to the Student Information System, as well as system enhancements to improve student services. SIS data is systemically exported to other data systems for student services such as Food & Nutrition (breakfast and lunch programs), Student Transportation (bus schedules), and Student Security.
I&T is responsible for the management and maintenance of the following (this list is not exhaustive):
Student Information System (SIS)
Broward Business Systems (SAP)
EduLog student transportation 70,000 students on 2,500 buses daily
SubCentral automated callout system for 1,000 substitute teachers daily
KRONOS - biometric clock in/out for substitute teachers
STAR student and campus security for visitors
Broward ParentLink automated callout system that is used by all schools and departments to communicate to students, parents and staff
School Technology Architecture
Within each physical location (school or department), computers, printers, scanners and network devices are networked on a Local Area Network (LAN). The LAN integrates a wired 1Gigabit backbone with a 802.11X wireless overlay. Each LAN has a DHCP server and a local file/print share server. Onsite Caching Server stores web pages and other Internet downloads locally at the site to improve Internet throughput for the end-users and provide statutorily required content filters. Every school has a telephone switch which supports the classrooms and administrative offices.
I&T is responsible for the management and maintenance of the following:
Site to Site Routing Architecture
The main focus of the SBBC network is "robust support for converged voice, video and data communications over 250 school and administrative sites, along with fail safe systems in place to prevent downed sites from interrupting communications among the sites." Utilizing Metro-Ethernet, the SBBC network allows for scalability, improved operational costs and the ability to transmit multiple voice conversations over a single WAN (Wide Area Network.) The SBBC network is divided into 6 separate VLANs (Virtual Local Area Network) with high bandwidth gigabit connections. The SBBC datacenter is connected to a junction into which 6 VLANs feed for cost efficiency and speed enhancement. Additionally the VLANs can share resources so if one went down another VLAN will take its settings and consequently keep the network from shutting down.
STAR (Security Tracking and Response) is the visitor management system used at all the schools to check in parents and volunteers and authorize student pickups. The STAR system is in compliance with the Jessica Lunsford Act and also performs a real time background check when an SBBC staff member swipes a visitor's driver's license. In addition to allowing volunteers to sign in and out, the STAR system also checks the Clerk of Courts network for any pending court cases that may affect the volunteer status of a parent or guardian. STAR is also linked to the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) to ensure the safety of the students and staff.
Future upgrades to the STAR system include integration with Student IDs to access school resources such as lunches, library books and etcetera.
I&T provides technical support to schools and departments through a combination of remote services, active monitoring services, centralized services, call-in service desk, and dispatched field technicians. I&T provides technical training and technical support for the site-based (school or departmental) technical support staff. The technical support model is a three-tiered model supporting the site-based technical support staff. Tier One is the I&T Service Desk, which is the centralized call center. If an incident cannot be resolved at the Service Desk, it is escalated to Tier Two, which is the technical support staff. Tier Two can fix the incident in the infrastructure or dispatch a field tech. If a technical issue cannot be resolved by Tier Two, then I&T will escalate it to Tier Three for vendor support. The Network Operation Center (NOC) proactively monitors the WAN, critical servers, and Internet Access, and often dispatches and fixes a failure before it results in and outage for the school.
The School Board of Broward County currently owns approximately 30,000 telephone numbers. There are currently plans to migrate the phone numbers from public switch to VoIP (voice over internet protocol) in order to reduce the cost and expand the capabilities of the phone systems.
Also SBBC uses the Broward ParentLink notification system to automatically contact the parent or guardian of a student when a student has overdue books or is absent from class. Parent link is an automated calling system that gathers the student contact information from TERMS (Total Education Resource Management System) and places the calls without the need for human interaction. The system has proven to be so effective that it makes over two million calls a month and can be utilized to contact parents when emergency situations arise.
Using the latest virtualization technology, the School Board of Broward County has been able to save space and cut cost by eliminating individual standalone servers with blade technology and virtual servers. The benefits of virtual servers to the SBBC are numerous, for instance they offer greater reliability and are easier to backup and restore. Virtual servers are easier to backup because there is one virtual file that is backed up instead of multiple files spread over several hard drives on a standalone server. Virtual servers increase reliability by allowing a failed server to utilize any open virtual servers to continue running. Thus reducing down time and ensuring business continuity.