Lakeville Public Schools
In 1900, the Lakeville village council approved $500 to build the first school in what would become Lakeville Area Public Schools, located just south of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Like many districts that reside on the edge of a major metropolitan area, managing growth has become an annual challenge. The Lakeville District is now made up of 20 buildings and nearly 11,000 students. For them, this amounts to over 2600 Macintosh computers—and counting.
Sandy Hinding, Lead Macintosh Technician, explained that continuing to support those machines by using “many, many FireWire drives and many, many images,” was becoming impossible. After hearing about the Casper Suite, she was on a mission to get the Mac desktop management system up and running. Their goal was to improve and expand their level of Mac support without having to add staff.
More support, existing staff
Adding staff really isn’t an option when it comes to limited school budgets.
“One of our goals is to improve our cross-training,” said Sandy. “It will be a lot easier to train Mac technicians from the PC side using the Casper Suite. Everyone will know exactly what we’re capable of.”
Sandy is already working with existing staff at the building level. With the Casper Suite on board, she was able to get non-technology department staff to assist with Mac support.
“One of the best things for me is that the local Casper Suite interface is so easy to use that many of our Media Specialists are now easily imaging machines and installing software. I prepare the packages and then they’re off and running after I let them know where to find them.”
After Sandy recruited additional Mac support from the existing staff, she began to focus on other projects. In fact, Lakeville is implementing an Xsan for data management—the Casper Suite will be helping with that too.
“The more I learn about the Casper Suite, the less I plan to create and edit groups in Workgroup Manager. Instead, I’m going to simplify that entire process by using policies within the Casper Suite for the Xsan,” she said.
She’s looking for other projects to simplify, too.
Increasing IT’s efficiency and expanding support using existing staff is a big benefit. In Lakeville, Sandy can be credited with delivering that benefit. When it comes to growing school districts, administrators know that the benefits are exponential.
Six years later: where are they now?
After six years, Sandy and her colleagues are still enthusiastic Casper Suite users and their Mac environment has continued to develop with the Lakeville Area Public School District. Even with funding obstacles, Sandy and her team have been able to complete multiple large projects that include mass imaging deployments, Self Service utilization and an iOS deployment (with an expansion of iOS devices most likely on the horizon). According to Sandy, they continue to look for ways to maximize efficiency in their environment with the Casper Suite.
“There’s no possible way at this point that we could function without the Casper Suite,” said Sandy.
With time to spare
The last two summers for Sandy and her team have not been lacking change. In 2010, the Lakeville school board was able to find money in the budget to upgrade the instructor machines – transitioning from iMacs and eMacs, to Intel Processor Macs. When the computers arrived on campus Sandy’s team had just over one month to have every computer ready for the teachers to come back to school. But they got it done in three weeks. By using pre-staged imaging, they were able to prep the images before the contracts for the new machines were even signed by administrators. Distributing the computers to each location was the bulk of the labor – then they were able to let the Casper Suite run its course.
"Pre-stages kept track of our progress and showed how many computers we had left to do," said Sandy. "Then once the pre-stages were done we would look at the inventory and make sure the new RAM shoed up. It was just a tremendous help."
In the summer of 2011 the school district experienced multiple budget cuts, resulting in teacher layoffs, increased class sizes and the closing of one building. With the relocation of many machines across multiple sites, the IT department wanted to ensure data wasn’t being transferred with the computers. Using the Casper Suite they implemented yet another mass imaging project, which included an upgrade from OS X 10.5 to 10.6. But, according to Sandy, her travel from site to site was minimal.
“I never even left my office,” said Sandy. “I was able to track everything.”
Promoting end-user efficiency
Due to budget cuts, there has been a decrease in tech support hours in buildings across the district. However, Sandy’s team has been able to counteract the issue by using Self Service to allow end users to perform general troubleshooting on their own machines.
“It’s so easy to be able to spell it out for them, it’s a one-click solution,” she said. “If I put it in Self Service I know they’re doing it the way it’s supposed to be done. All the steps are in the right order.”
Sandy is pleased to receive positive feedback from teachers when it comes to Self Service. She said they feel empowered to learn how to help themselves, instead of waiting for an IT administrator to come to them. It has also helped save a significant amount of time on a seemingly simple, yet common request—setting up printers.
“I have 200 printers in Self Service scoped by building so the laptop users working in multiple buildings can take their laptops to the next building, open up Self Service… and voila! They can setup a printer right in the hallway that they’re in,” said Sandy. “It has been fantastic.”
Self Service has also been an effective way to provide students with approved software they can install on-demand. Since their rollout of Active Directory, Sandy is still able to keep an eye on those students who posess stronger determination when it comes to software installation attempts. With everyone in Active Directory, she is able to receive email notifications when these attempts are made. From there she can set a policy to send that student a message, directing them to Self Service where the permitted software is available.
“I have this omnipresent way of catching kids in the act—which has been so effective!” said Sandy. “And you know, I don’t want to drop the hammer on them, but I want them to know they are being watched.”
Faith in the future
With the time and resources saved by the Casper Suite, Sandy has been able to think ahead to her future projects. As a long-time customer, she said her JSS has “gotten a bit bloated” and plans to trim down on some of her imaging configurations. Using scoping and software usage tracking, she said she’s evaluating packages from over the years to determine what can stay, and what needs to go—helping cut down on costs for unused software.
Sandy also said with a new superintendent that is enthusiastic about iOS devices, she definitely sees them in the school’s future. They are currently managing 60 iOS devices and they plan to add many more. Come what may, it looks like their lives will include the Casper Suite.
“People send me links saying ‘Oh look at this management system,’ and I have 100% confidence that when working within Apple’s infrastructure, that no one is going to do it better than JAMF Software. I’m not interested in looking at whatever other solution I see out there. My faith is in the Casper Suite. Maybe there will be other competition, but we’re invested. We see it as the future.”