The Challenge: Replace a 17-year-old Legacy Phone System

Recent education studies have proven what many parents and teachers already know: when parents get involved in their children’s education, children do better in school. Such involvement largely depends on direct communication between parents and teachers about students’ progress.

David Douglas School District in Portland, OR is a fast-growing district with 16 locations. Looking to improve communications, primarily with the parents of its more than 9,400 students, it set a goal to outfit every classroom and every teacher with a phone. At the time, teachers shared a few phones in the office for making outbound calls. For inbound calls, which often came when teachers were in class, office staff took handwritten messages. This consumed much of the office staff’s time, forced teachers to leave their classrooms to make calls, and inevitably created delays in connecting with parents.

“Having our own phones and voicemail has really changed the face of how we do business. Because parents can reach us directly, it opens the lines of communication much faster and allows us to be more efficient.”
– Derek Edens, Assessment and Technology Coordinator, David Douglas School District.

The Challenge

Though it sounds simple enough to install a phone in every room, the fast-growing district faced some significant costs and challenges. Without phone wiring and jacks beyond a few areas in each school, David Douglas would have to invest time and money to build the infrastructure needed to put a phone in every room. On top of that, the district’s existing Centrex phone network consisted of several different types of systems, each with its own problems. Some lacked adequate vendor support, while others were slow, archaic, and hard to maintain.

“Without an intuitive system like ShoreTel that is conducive to making these types of changes, we could not keep up. Now, we have all these additional features and functions, and we are supporting quadruple the population of users with the same staff.
– Derek Edens, Assessment and Technology Coordinator, David Douglas School District.

The Solution

Wanting to bring all 800 staff members onto a single, unified system, the district deployed a ShoreTel IP phone system at all 16 locations. ShoreTel’s open, distributed architecture enabled a unique setup combining IP telephony and traditional POTS lines. The system uses VoIP between switches, but the connection from the switch to the phone is still analog. This enables the district to use its existing analog phones, thereby keeping costs down. The ShoreTel 60, 120, and T1 Voice Switches provide both gateway and call management functionality. Benefits include:

  • With ShoreTel, all 800 users now have voicemail. Office staff no longer have to take messages for teachers.
  • The ShoreTel system also adds a new level of security for David Douglas. If an emergency occurs in the classroom, the teacher can dial 911 directly from his or her room to get help quickly.
  • ShoreTel Director streamlines administrative tasks into a Web-based interface that allows IT staff to perform moves, adds, and changes in minutes.
  • Though the district grew its user base from 200 to 800, it reduced overall phone costs by $40,000 per year by using existing data network wiring and analog phones, and minimizing the need for T1 sites.

“The phone system is much more efficient for parents because they can call teachers directly, instead of having to leave a message at the office. We also improved communication internally and enhanced security with a phone in every classroom.”
– Derek Edens, Assessment and Technology Coordinator, David Douglas School District.