Palisades Charter High School Case Study
Mitel’s IP Unified Communications (UC) solution allows personalized call handling, heightened security, and improved responsiveness
Doing its homework
The school needed a solution that was easy and efficient to manage in-house, could meet the unique UC requirements of an educational environment, and could enhance the school’s response in emergency situations.
Seeking easy and efficient IP system
Palisades Charter High School is a financially independent, comprehensive four-year high school that was ready to graduate to modern telephony. The school looked at UC solutions from Cisco, Nortel, and Mitel. With priority on emergency responsiveness features, cost-effectiveness, ability to customize, ease of use and management, and failover capabilities, Palisades Charter High School chose Mitel.
“Mitel was the most cost-effective in terms of both initial costs and long-term total cost of ownership,” says Maisha-Cole Perri, technology coordinator for the school. “But the real business benefit of Mitel is the fact that it has so many features that simply help teachers do their jobs better."
Mitel enables better security and responsiveness
Mitel provided Palisades Charter High School with seven Mitel Voice Switches. The system has made it possible for the school to have a Mitel IP Phone in every classroom. Mitel further unified internal communications with the school’s emergency notification response system, and custom software development services added additional features that addressed the school’s unique requirements.
The Mitel IP UC system provides calling party information to the 911 service during an emergency. Taking this one step further, Palisades Charter High School is also using Mitel’s Emergency Notification Application, which provides internal notification to designated individuals that a 911 call has been placed. Alerts include the name, extension number, and exact location of the caller. Whenever a ShorePhone IP telephone is used to dial 911, the system automatically notifies the school’s police and executive-level staff of the call. By receiving simultaneous notification, they can immediately create an appropriate and unified response to the emergency. Built-in messaging allows them to send text messages to one another from their desktops, further improving their ability to coordinate a timely response.
“The Mitel Emergency Notification Application helps us ensure the safety of students, teachers, administrators, and visitors by facilitating a quick and accurate response in case of an emergency,” says Perri.
Another system capability that proves invaluable in dealing with emergencies is Mitel’s auto-attendant. While the Los Angeles fires were burning, the auto-attendant system allowed Perri to change greetings on the fly.
“We were able to go into auto-attendant and make emergency notifications available to the community and parents – urgent information such as where buses were going with students,” explains Perri. “The school was also a shelter during the fires and we posted information about that. We’ve now developed a plan to change messages remotely whenever necessary so updates are posted immediately.”
An Ingate SIParator device connects to the existing network firewall as a session border controller, with Mitel providing the SIP trunk support. SIP trunks offer significant benefits, including lower operating costs, faster streaming of UC media, and more service flexibility. Together, Ingate and Mitel ensure a fast, secure end-to-end flow between IP packets and the phones or other endpoints, both within the enterprise as well as outside the enterprise network. This scenario adds to PAUSD’s comprehensive UC system security. The PAUSD used Cisco routers as VoIP gateways for legacy analog lines and a DID trunk during the district-wide UC implementation.
Passing the test with teachers
Mitel Professional Services implemented a customized feature for Palisades Charter High School, which automatically configures call-handling modes for teachers. For instance, when a teacher is in class, the phone is automatically put in an unavailable status, so class is not interrupted with a ringing telephone. Instead, calls are automatically routed to the teacher’s voicemail box, and a blinking light on the telephone indicates that there is a message waiting so the call can be returned when it’s convenient for the teacher.
“SHORETEL WAS THE MOST COST-EFFECTIVE IN TERMS OF BOTH INITIAL COSTS AND LONG-TERM TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP. BUT THE REAL BUSINESS BENEFIT OF SHORETEL IS THE FACT THAT IT HAS SO MANY FEATURES THAT SIMPLY HELP TEACHERS DO THEIR JOBS BETTER."
Maisha-Cole Perri, Technology Coordinator
Palisades Charter High School
“The new Mitel system allows teachers to efficiently communicate with their communities, including parents, staff, students, and administrators,” says Perri. “Mitel helped us customize the system so that classroom telephones don’t ring during precious class time, yet the phone is available all the time for calls to anyone inside or outside the school, including 911. The system simply enables teachers to do their jobs better.”
Improving staff and teacher responsiveness
Palisades Charter High School is using Mitel’s hunt groups capability to ensure all calls are answered by a live person rather than voicemail. Calls ring multiple extensions in a specified sequence or all at once. For example, calls that come into the main telephone number can be answered by several front-office administrators.
The same is true for calls into the finance office and student attendance reporting clerks. This feature ensures that all callers reach the person they need quickly, enhancing the school’s overall responsiveness and communications with the entire community.
The Mitel IP Phones notify teachers with a blinking light when they have a message waiting, which means parent concerns will not go unrecognized. In addition, The Mitel UC system provides every Palisades Charter High School employee with a personal voicemail box, which was not available with the old system. Administrators can send a message through this system to all teachers or groups of individuals, rather than counting on teachers to pick up messages from their office mailboxes.
This unifies communications and improves responsiveness by the school, while reducing the administrative burden for teachers since they have to check only one place – their Mitel voicemail box – to obtain all of their messages.
Mitel makes MACs easy for IT
Palisades Charter High School uses Mitel Director for management of the Mitel system. It is a browser-based management interface that provides access to the system from anywhere on the network, enabling easy and efficient management, including moves, adds, and changes. “With the old phone system, we had a hard time completing moves, adds, and changes,” says Perri.
“With the Mitel IP Unified Communications system, we don’t even need a technician onsite to handle these tasks – I take care of these things myself. It’s nice to be able to update things ourselves. The Mitel system allows us to say yes to requests that help teachers be more responsive and effective, whereas before we’d have to wait for someone to come in and make requested changes,” concludes Perri.
“WITH THE SHORETEL IP UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM, WE DON’T EVEN NEED A TECHNICIAN ON-SITE TO HANDLE THESE TASKS – I TAKE CARE OF THESE THINGS MYSELF. IT’S NICE TO BE ABLE TO UPDATE THINGS OURSELVES.”
Palisades Charter High School wanted a telephone system with greater flexibility and custom features. The high school also wanted additional security features to improve emergency responsiveness.
Mitel provided Mitel Voice Switches, Mitel IP Phones, and custom software integration, along with the Mitel Emergency Notification Application.
- Enhanced security
- Custom call-handling features
- Ability to make changes in-house
- Reduced administrative time