Customer Success Story
Learn how ENA SmartVoice helped two school districts overcome their fear of deploying VoIP while simultaneously elevating their communication platforms.
Esteemed philosopher Socrates once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Although thousands of years old, this quote is still applicable in today’s learning environments. As K–12 school districts, higher education institutions, and libraries nationwide make the switch to digital, their technology leaders and departments are being called upon to achieve more with less: less money, less personnel support, and—even more challenging—less time. Although change can be daunting, two Tennessee school districts have discovered that letting go of the old and embracing the new can be very beneficial in every possible way.
Fayette County Schools, Somerville, Tennessee
Number of students: 3,700
Fayette County Schools (Fayette) is a rural school district located in West Tennessee. Like many other schools, Fayette had an antiquated phone system in place that utilized outdated equipment. Richard England, Fayette’s supervisor of technology, knew he needed to start exploring other communication platforms, but with so many other initiatives on his plate, he was hesitant to tackle another large project. “Our system was really old, and we needed to upgrade our phones and equipment,” says England. “We were looking for a simple, streamlined service. Since ENA is already our Internet service provider, I reached out to their team.”
England met with his ENA account service manager, Marc Elliott, as well as ENA’s manager of solutions engineering, Dan Crowley, to discuss ENA’s hosted VoIP solution—ENA SmartVoice. “I didn’t want to roll out a new service to all of my sites at once,” says England. “Marc and Dan were very helpful during the process and relieved a lot of the anxiety I had about the project. They came in and explained everything to me. Once our district made the decision to deploy ENA SmartVoice, we did a slow rollout at one site. That deployment went well, and it made me realize that my team and I could do this. That’s one of the great aspects of working with ENA—they will provide you with as much help as you need or want.”
Since its initial deployment, Fayette has integrated ENA SmartVoice into several of its buildings. “We previously maintained our central office’s phone system ourselves,” says England. “That was resource-intensive, so we decided to deploy ENA SmartVoice at that location as well because it is a hosted solution. It’s great because ENA’s managed services take the burden off of our staff.”
ENA SmartVoice’s enhanced features have also been well received by Fayette’s staff. “Everybody loves the new system,” says England. “It’s such a step up from what we had. Our staff loves being able to dial by extension within the school district. They also love the voicemail-to-email feature—that has been really great. When our secretary was out of the office for a month for health reasons, we were quickly able to transfer her incoming calls to the principal’s office using the online portal. To be able to do things like that on the fly is very convenient.”
In addition to streamlining the district’s communications, ENA SmartVoice is also saving Fayette critical budget dollars. “The cost difference has been unbelievable,” says England. “ENA SmartVoice has steadily been driving down our expenses. With our previous vendor, we were constantly experiencing increases in our pricing. With ENA, we don’t have that.”
ENA’s simple billing format has also been a positive surprise. “Our old phone bill was a huge headache,” says England. “The bills were really difficult to read. When I spoke to Marc and Dan, they let me know I’d be receiving just one bill. You can’t beat that! With the previous vendor, we’d get 15 to 20 bills. It was very time-consuming and frustrating.”
England is looking forward to deploying VoIP at more sites within his district. “ENA provides its customers with a simplified, turnkey solution along with a great support system. If you want a solution you can deploy quickly and that is easy to manage and support, I recommend ENA SmartVoice because it gives you all of that.”
Monroe County Schools, Madisonville, Tennessee
Number of students: 5,600
After spending several years maintaining and repairing their outdated analog phone system, Monroe County Schools (Monroe) reached their breaking point and had to make a change. It was a shift that Gary Sharp, Monroe’s director of technology, had been dreading. “My director came to me and said we had to do something about our phone system because our vendor wouldn’t let us add any additional lines,” says Sharp. “We were at our max capacity. Also, the phone service at our central office was terrible, and the cost of replacing it was unbelievable. That’s when I reached out to ENA to see what they could do.”
After exploring their options, Monroe’s team decided to replace the phone system in their central office with ENA SmartVoice. Sharp was pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it was to deploy ENA’s hosted VoIP solution. “The project was much simpler than I expected,” says Sharp. “There wasn’t a lot of configuration involved because ENA does all of that on the front end. The solution also has a simple interface. We haven’t experienced any problems at all. In fact, we decided to deploy ENA SmartVoice at our middle school and install the phones ourselves after seeing how easy it was, and that project was much larger in scope and had a much tighter deadline.”
Monroe’s middle school project quickly became a priority after a security inspection revealed some deficits in the school’s communication platform. “We initially were trying to hold off on our middle school, but we had a security inspection performed,” says Sharp. “We were informed that it was a safety hazard to not have phones in every room and to not have a working intercom system. So I contacted our director and informed him we needed to get the project started immediately.”
In addition to installing phones in every room, Monroe also purchased Algo 8180 SIP Audio Alerters from ENA for the middle school. The Audio Alerter functions as a loud ringer/alerter as well as a voice paging extension, and it can be used to broadcast announcements. Sharp and his team installed the Audio Alerters themselves. “We were initially concerned about how it was going to work,” says Sharp. “But it has been wonderful. The devices were very simple to program, and they can act like a regular phone. They are also very loud! We installed one in the gym because it’s useless to place a phone in that location. It’s been great because our secretaries can call the gym, and our instructors and students can actually hear what they are saying. Our office staff absolutely loves it.”
Customer Voice – Gary Sharp, Director of Technology, Monroe County Schools, TN
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ENA SmartVoice is enabling Monroe to streamline its communication platforms, and the district is using the solution to reduce the number of calls Monroe’s secretaries receive from concerned parents. “We have a mass call-out system in place when we need to broadcast important information to our parents,” says Sharp. “Instead of checking their voicemails, many of our parents will just look at their caller ID, see the phone number, and call the school back to inquire why we called. I added a line so that I can assign the call-out system its own phone number. When we have a call-out in the future, we will use that line, and I’ll place the same recording on that line. When the parents call back, they will hear our recorded call-out message and get the information they need. Hopefully, this will prevent our secretaries from receiving 50 or 60 calls from concerned parents.”
In addition to its robust features and functionality, Sharp is impressed by how much money ENA SmartVoice is saving the district. “The cost difference between analog and VoIP is unbelievable,” says Sharp. “It’s almost half, and that is before E-rate. And we get a lot more benefits and a lot more features than we did with analog lines. This is an approximation, but we had someone come in and provide us with an estimate for an analog phone system for one school, and it was between $70,000 and $90,000. With ENA, I think the entire middle school project cost me around $10,000. When you have a computer running everything, it’s going to be a lot cheaper.”
Sharp is also enjoying ENA’s simplified billing in addition to the cost savings. “We no longer have pages and pages of bills to sift through,” says Sharp. “Also, with ENA SmartVoice, there is no such thing as long distance— which is huge. Our old phone line cost around $40 per month, but our usage charges would be around $70 per month because of long distance calls. That’s not even a factor anymore. On our old system, I couldn’t make long distance calls from my office because they were restricted. I had to go to a certain phone in the building to do that. Now, I can pick up the phone and dial anybody.”
Sharp encourages other technology directors who are nervous about making the switch to VoIP to set aside their fears. “If you’d asked me a year ago, I would have told you this was one of the projects I dreaded more than anything else. I thought this was going to be a major headache and I held off—but I had to switch because I had no other choice. Fast forward one year, and now I’ve got the biggest school in our district using VoIP, and I’m not worried at all. I thought this was going to be something else added to my plate, and that’s definitely not the case. It’s a neat deal, and I’m very pleased with it.”