Students, teachers and staff at Mangere’s Viscount Primary School (VPS) are excited about all of the positive changes at their school. “We’ve added more Chromebooks and iPads for students, upgraded the AV capabilities at our school hall, deployed VOIP for cost savings and migrated our school data to Google Docs,” says Shirley Hardcastle, Principal at VPS. “And the tech team from New Era Technology has been absolutely essential for all of our ICT initiatives.” The school also upgraded the old bell system. The new system has timing for bells/ music and the capacity to broadcast notices as well as providing in the Emergency PA capacity inside and outside.
Teacher Leigh Stevens has been at VPS for well over a decade and has been the de facto tech ‘go-to guy’ for most of that time. “We have a pretty good understanding of the ICT resources we need to support the modern school environment,” he says, “but we are not specialists by any means. This is why we value New Era’s advice, assistance and hands-on support. They take care of the day-to-day network issues so that we can focus on our students, teaching and planning for the future.”
Help Desk support over and above
New Era’s support goes beyond everyday activities. In early June, around 4pm on a school day, VPS’s internet connection failed. “We had no idea why…it was an extremely unusual event,” Mr Stevens says. “We called the New Era Help Desk and notified them of the event. New Era’s team immediately took ownership of the issue and drilled down into the system to find out why.
“It turns out that the problem was a piece of hardware managed by our ISP…outside of New Era’s area of responsibility…but they worked with the ISP to isolate the problem, get the faulty router fixed and then rebooted so that everything was back up and running. By then it was 10pm. This is just one example where the New Era team will do what it takes to get the job done, even if it requires after-hours effort.”
Comprehensive, multi-touch support
“We look at New Era’s support team as part of our Whanau,” continues Principal Hardcastle. “They understand our needs, respect our values and work within our constraints to deliver the best possible outcomes. A critical component of our overall relationship is their Development Plan, a working document that provides a snapshot of our current environment, a vision of the future and a set of specific tasks and timelines to help us achieve our goals.”
“New Era’s School Development Plans are fairly detailed,” explains New Era’s Judi McNie, Client Manager for VPS. “We have regular meetings with Principal Hardcastle and Mr Stevens where we work together to identify areas for improvement. At the same time our on-site tech people and the Help Desk are ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground and make note of where we can add value to network operations. The end result is a strategic plan that the school can use for budgeting, scheduling and compliance.”
“With New Era’s Development Plan,” explains Principal Hardcastle, “we can ensure that we can support our current initiatives, prepare a foundation for growth and allocate resources appropriately.”
Many of the projects first mooted in the Development Plan have been successfully implemented. “A big one for us was the migration of our data to Google Docs,” says Principal Hardcastle. “There was virtually no disruption during the transition, New Era did all the work behind the scenes.”
Similar results were achieved with adding advanced AV capabilities at the school hall. “We’d been wanting this for years,” she continues, “but we never really specified exactly what we needed. So we sat down with Judi and her team and she outlined our options, the benefits and what we needed to do. Literally a month after that meeting the new AV capabilities were in place and now it is a well-used learning hub for students.”
Along with the rest of New Zealand, the recent Covid 19 disruption severely tested Viscount Primary School’s resiliency. “Because we had migrated our data to Google Docs,” notes Mr Stevens, “teachers and staff had full access to all of the digital resources they needed even though the school itself sat empty. New Era’s Help Desk also stepped up and offered one-on-one telephone support for those who needed it. As a result, we were able to weather the storm and pick up where we left off.”
Looking to the future
More screens for students and more hands-on training for teachers are priorities for VPS. “We have a well-oiled network running in the background,” concludes Principal Hardcastle, “so now we can focus on taking full advantage of all of the digital resources at our disposal. We are very excited about what we have achieved and are looking forward to building on that success with the full support from New Era Technology.”