Making The IP Telephony Connection At School

Solution provider integrates telephony, security solution for elementary school

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They say talk is cheap, but when a South Carolina elementary school wanted to implement IP telephony, it knew it needed the assistance of a solution provider experienced in the inner workings of both educational institutions and the latest technology.

Because of the scope of the project, New Prospect Elementary, part of Spartanburg School District One, requested bids from several solution providers before it finally selected a proposal from its longtime technology partner, Computer Software Innovations (CSI), based in Easley, S.C.

"The solutions they offer are negotiable and designed with classrooms in mind," says Cheryl Berry, IT director of the Spartanburg School District One. "With [technology and education] being their main priorities, they are a trusted source for advice. [Account manager] Kelley Turpin has hung in there for the long haul with usCSI has really grown in the years we have had a relationship with them, but Kelley makes us think we are her biggest customer."

Initially, the contract was worth $598,000, but modifications increased the value to some $700,000, Berry says. "The selection criteria was 45 percent design and product information, 35 percent quality-assurance issues that you might call service, and 20 percent price," she says.

New Prospect was already comfortable working with CSI and its cabling partner, CNIC. "CSI works with all of the Spartanburg districts to provide software and hardware to help meet operational and instructional challenges faced by educators today," Turpin says. "From the outset [in 1999], CSI provided the districts with the development and support of a districtwide fund-accounting solution, called CSI+ Accounting."

During the next few years that followed, however, CSI began to provide integration services, such as networking design, configuration, implementation and support. "More recently, we made great strides in providing the total solution," Turpin says. "Building on the standardization, dependability and cost-effectiveness of our installations in the district, we were able to help the district take the next logical step"the application of the technology to the instructional needs of the district."

Rather than install separate solutions for various functions, CSI recommended a converged system that would allow the newly renovated elementary school to use the same basic technology for telephony and classroom-based instruction.

"Our initial role involved helping the district save money by doing a return-on-investment study of the entire district's cost for a traditional Centrex phone system compared with a centralized IP-based telephone solution," Turpin says. "[IP telephony] allows the district to save money by making a one-time investment in a highly scalable call-processing solution. Our solution solved many needs, such as video-on-demand, instructional and security surveillance, and intercoms, thus providing a truly affordable integrated solution."

New Prospect also purchased an interactive whiteboard solution developed by Promethean of Atlanta, which enables teachers to use traditional teaching methods with an improved set of tools, Turpin says. "The ActivBoard keeps students engaged, interactive and constantly assessed with the use of individual voting tools," she adds. "ActivBoard has customizable software that can be adjusted to each teacher's curricular and instructional needs."

As part of the project, CSI will also offer on-site training to teachers and administrators, Berry says. The technologies will be housed in 20 new instructional spaces, as well as a gym, media center, offices and meeting rooms, she adds. New Prospect also hopes to expand its use of office-automation technologies. "We are looking to digitize as much paper as possible for this school," Berry says.

Alison Diana ( is a Merritt Island, Fla.-based freelance editor and writer.

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