With 10,000 students attending 16 elementary schools (from kindergarten through grade six), Saugus Union School District in Santa Clarita, California sought to transform into one of the most forward-thinking schools in their area. But their existing network was holding them back. With some systems still running on Windows 95-based platforms and a lack of wireless device capabilities, they realized a more holistic approach would be needed. One that could also defend against the growing threats they saw other schools facing.
Saugus Union School District goes full-stack
After talking to several IT providers about these and other issues related to their proposed network refresh, Saugus selected Cisco. Their previous experiences with Cisco products and solutions had shown that Cisco would provide outstanding quality and reliability. They also decided to become a full-stack Cisco Meraki network.
As they began their refresh, Saugus decided to provide each school with its own internet connection. They felt that by decentralizing they could keep more schools online if issues arose. But with 16 schools and upwards of 500 classrooms, each with their own dedicated wireless access point, configuration would be difficult. Or would it?
“One of the things we liked about the Cisco Meraki solution was that even though each school had its own connection, we could complete configurations from a centralized location without having to do on-site visits.”
“One of the things we liked about the Cisco Meraki solution was that even though each school had its own connection, we could complete configurations from a centralized location without having to do on-site visits,” states Michael Leathers, Director of Information Services at the Saugus Union School District.
“Meraki’s cloud-based management platform provides comprehensive visibility across the entire network, including wired and wireless devices, without having to deploy expensive controllers or overlay management systems.”
Leathers and his team are also benefiting from Cisco’s plug-and-play design that makes scaling up access points a breeze. With Cisco, Saugus merely plugs the access point in, it phones home – gets its configuration – and starts working right away. By upgrading to the latest Cisco Meraki equipment to provide faster speeds and improved reliability, students and teachers soon found themselves quickly transitioning from a “no tech” to “fully connected tech” environment.
Constantly updating and constantly connected
With thousands of students online daily in the district, Saugus also needed a robust firewall solution to keep their networks secure. They were seeing other districts suffer malware attacks and knew they had to modernize quickly. They had no time to experiment with an unproven solution. That’s why they selected a proven one, Cisco Meraki Firewalls, to continuously monitor and filter traffic. Plus, it constantly updates to detect and prevent emerging threats.
Reliability was also a key issue for Leathers and the Saugus team. With 30+ students potentially accessing a single access point at one time for learning materials, including videos, their connections must be smooth and hiccup free. Otherwise, the learning process could be interrupted.
“We’re a K–6 district, so our student are 12 years and under. Our schools see 10,000 students on the internet every day. Not having a robust firewall in that environment would open us up to all kinds of problems,” says Leathers. “So, the fact that the Cisco Meraki firewalls are constantly updated with threat detection keeps our kids safe.” By deploying Cisco Meraki Firewalls, Saugus is keeping their network of users safe while also blocking potential threats that could knock students offline.
Saugus Union School District says goodbye Windows 95
Saugus schools faced another security risk: they were still running a bell system that operated on Windows 95. The network refresh gave them a unique opportunity to upgrade to the Cisco Unified Communications Gateway.
This enabled greater collaboration using VoIP calling that features end-to-end encryption, plus mobility for staff to work anywhere, anytime. And it became key to keeping parents in touch with the schools during COVID lockdowns, allowing parents to reach out to teachers and staff despite losing physical access to campus.
Cisco also helped Saugus deploy Singlewire. This solution provides rapid notification of any potential security or weather emergencies. They also leveraged building closures to wire individual classrooms and add electronic locks to every door. The lock system is integrated with Singlewire, allowing control of doors remotely, and includes panic buttons and remote lockdown capabilities for the entire facility. This has given them a robust and redundant physical security system.
Leathers is very pleased with the result of their partnership with Cisco, adding “I can pick up any phone on campus, dial the emergency code, and it will lock down the doors, broadcast a message on our overhead speakers, our flat panel TVs, and our phones. And it will call the police.”
A holistic approach to digital transformation
Saugus Union School District is leveraging Cisco’s advanced technologies holistically to help achieve their goal of keeping students and staff safe, online and off, while powering a more efficient and productive learning environment. All with easier and more centralized management. We encourage you to follow their lead and take your next step towards digital transformation. Whether it’s from “no tech” to “full tech” or somewhere in-between, Cisco is here to help.
Learn more about K-12 solutions from Cisco.