CONNECTING STUDENTS + SOLUTIONS
In addition to serving more than 450 students at their Watertown campus, Perkins School for the Blind provides global services, consulting, and products, and advocates on behalf of visually impaired kids who aren’t able to attend the school. Operating five distinct lines of business including a library of specialized materials and an eLearning portal, the nonprofit organization decided to launch a “One Perkins” initiative in 2015.
THE CHALLENGE OF COLLABORATION
Supporting “One Perkins” would require an integrated digital tech strategy. The Information Technology (IT) team needed to modernize existing systems and optimize collaboration across the entire organization, inside and out of the classrooms.
After reviewing proposals, Perkins’ CIO, David Nero, engaged Tech Networks of Boston based on expertise, capabilities, and cost-effective solutions. Together, they developed a three-year strategy for connecting the entire organization through a seamless, flexible, and robust infrastructure. Their next challenge was securing budget approval.
Perkins School for the Blind relies on three sources to fund its operational costs: an endowment, fundraising, and gifts or grants from state and federal entities. Like most nonprofit organizations, justifying the expense of a major tech initiative was challenging, as IT must compete with direct service programs as well as facility-related projects.
Tech Networks provided the third party validation that Nero’s team needed to present a compelling case. They ensured that every expense was prioritized and clearly aligned to Perkins’ overall organizational mission, in order to successfully gain approval for the complex project.
“The challenge is meeting those diverse demands with tools that work, that can be supported, that you can afford, and that can be flexible going forward.”
– David Nero, Chief Information Officer, Perkins School for the Blind
BUILDING A STRATEGY THAT SCALES
Working within Perkins’ budget cycles, Tech Networks initially focused on infrastructure. They conducted a full assessment and provided recommendations for upgrading the wireless network, firewall, edge switching, and security systems.
Replacing a wireless network that was 7+ years old and providing reliable connectivity for staff and students were critical. As a K-12 special education school, Perkins required a unique diversity of technology support for collaboration on local, national, and global levels daily.
Tech Networks employed a proactive approach to rolling out a new network, setting up access points, and building flexibility and scalability into the system through affordable open source software. They also provided highly trained Help Desk staffing to supplement Perkins’ IT team, which eventually grew to 15 members.
The upgraded infrastructure seamlessly supported the iPads and smartboards that students rely on in their classrooms. Additionally, Perkins’ new digital strategy provided mobile device management for the students’ personal laptops, smartphones, and specialized devices used in concert with Braille.
Working with Tech Networks, Nero and the IT team were able to anticipate future needs across Perkins’ services and develop a flexible and comprehensive digital strategy. The three-year rollout continues, and, as Nero says, its success lies in its “invisibility.” When the systems are working properly, no one notices.
“Getting Tech Networks to come in and validate our ideas and then force us to write it down and prioritize was extremely valuable.”