Henrico County Public Schools

Learning from a boots-on-the-ground approach

At Henrico County Public Schools in central Virginia, the teachers and administrators are regarded as the equivalent of the C-suite of a corporate business, and from a customer standpoint, should be treated as such.

“The private sector is very focused on the customer experience. Whether it’s the external customer driving revenue or the internal customer as the employee, there is an opportunity to bring that same approach to K-12 education,” says Director of Technology Brian Maddox.

Henrico County Public Schools

At Henrico Schools, a “client-centric” approach to public service means the IT department considers support, project, hardware and software requests through the lens of the end user, in this case the school district’s 50,000-plus students and nearly 4,000 teachers.

To help drive engagement from staff and students, Maddox says new technology process improvement initiatives are underway which include a robust, new ticketing system and a best practices approach for project management, designed to make the IT department accessible. The department is also in the process of researching new data centers technologies disaster recovery as a service, DRaaS, to better support Henrico Schools’ data center.

“We try to focus on how we deliver services and technologies to them by ensuring that what they are receiving is something they actually need. Only then will we become a pivotal piece in how instruction is delivered in the classroom,” he says.

An all-level outlook

Maddox says many of these IT improvements and solutions are the result of careful observation.

Since he arrived in 2015, Maddox and the Assistant Director of Instructional Technology Kourtney Bostain have toured the school district’s 72 school buildings every year to speak with principals about their schools’ technology needs.

Although these meetings were helpful in understanding technology at an administrative level, “last year, Kourtney and I sat down and asked ourselves, how can we go a step further to better understand how technology is being used in the classroom?” Maddox says.

Beginning in 2016, Maddox and Bostain began organizing classroom visits to every school to observe how students and teachers were interacting with technology on a day-to-day basis. Bostain even hopes to begin shadowing students to get a more in-depth view.

“We found that engaging at every level was the best way we could get a feel for the pulse of how we could best serve these individuals,” he says. “I believe one of the best ways we can gauge success within the technology department, and me as a leader, is really listening to what our customers are saying about the kind of service we are delivering to them.”

Proactive IT

From these careful observations, Maddox saw that the school district’s online issue resolution and ticket submission platform was in serious need of an upgrade.

Not only was the antiquated system having trouble keeping up with the constant stream of service and maintenance requests, “it offered no transparency into what were the trends of problems teachers and students were having,” Maddox says.

Henrico County Public Schools

So in 2016, the IT department set out to find a platform that could help the school district’s technicians be more proactive by analyzing recurring problems. Maddox says his team also felt it was important to find a service that allowed the IT department to survey the teachers and administrators to make sure their “customers” were receiving the right level of service.

In March 2017, Henrico Schools decided on ChangeGear, an IT service management platform developed by SunView Software.

“I believe one of the best ways we can gauge success within the technology department, and me as a leader, is really listening to what our customers are saying about the kind of service we are delivering to them.”

From the company’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, Vice President of Worldwide Sales John Nastelli says SunView was thrilled to be chosen.

“Early in the sales process we recognized an all too familiar theme Henrico Schools was trying to accomplish,” he says. “As the face of IT, they were looking for an ITSM solution that put their end users first and allowed for true, easy to use self-service, but at the same time was robust enough to provide real time easy to create reporting functionality, and was mobile.”

ITIL, or the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is a public framework developed in the United Kingdom that describes the best practices in IT service management.

“ITIL basically focuses on how IT can be used to deliver value and meet the needs of the customers,” Maddox says. In this case, ChangeGear offers a single, easy-to-use portal where teachers and administrators can submit a technical problem or maintenance request and then track the progress of their request. Best of all, Maddox says, ChangeGear allows Henrico’s teachers, administrators and staff to submit surveys about the IT department’s performance.

“Before ChangeGear the only feedback we got was the occasional email, talking about how this one person did a great job or maybe the customer didn’t get the right solution the first time and lost instruction time,” he says. “Being able to put out surveys on this new platform is going to give us the transparency we need to better serve our teachers and administrators.”

Henrico County Public Schools

ChangeGear went live in June 2017, and it is just one example of how technology is becoming more ingrained in the classroom, Maddox says.

“Henrico Schools is continuing to transform from a technology perspective, and we recognize that in order to best serve students and staff, we need to continue to improve and do things better ourselves,” he says.

For Maddox, this mission is also personal. Two of his “clients” happen to be his kids, both students in Henrico County Public School system, benefiting from that injection of corporate sensibility.

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