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Michigan district expands centrex from home to school.

School districts strapped for cash

< might be tempted, in these

economic times, to put off major purchases like telecommunications systems. But a Michigan school district saw

< technology investments improve its bottom line. Washtenaw Intermediate School District,

< based near Ann Arbor, Mich., sought a phone system that could enhance and simplify its existing centrex services. A typical centrex user, the Intermediate


School District (ISD) supports 10 local school districts with 40,000 students. The ISD center's 208 teachers and staff manage centralized services. The ISD reflects the success of


Washtenaw County. It is an exceptional educational community, with the University of Michigan at the helm. The community is highly supportive of education and has been willing to invest in the best people and technology. Among the services provided at the


ISD center are vocational training and guidance programs for gifted students, special education of about 300 students, a county-wide instructional materials library for teachers, and staff-coordinated academic measurement activities. These activities, and more, required a

< versatile new telecommunications system that would be reliable as well as flexible, able to handle a weekly load of 10,000 incoming and 6,700 outgoing phone calls.

 Two-way communications

 Washtenaw hopes to join the vanguard

of school districts that utilize two-way communications between school and home. The goal is to give parents easy, daily access to information about their children's learning activities. To achieve this goal, interaction between < teachers and parents must be handled by sophisticated telephone systems that can deliver features like voice messaging. With voice messaging, parents can call

< teachers' mailboxes and listen to summaries of learning activities, homework assignments and home learning suggestions. "At Washtenaw, the telephone will

< become an extension of the classroom," says John Dietz, Jr., the assistant superintendent for personal and business services. Nationwide, voice messaging trials

< have shown manifold increases in home/school interaction, higher homework completion rate and favorable parent and teacher reactions. Before Washtenaw considered a new

< phone system, a cost analysis of plant and technology needs was performed. That led to a successful $8.6 million bond issue. "That bond issue enables us to enter

< the 21st century proactively and technologically sound," Dietz says.

 Preserving bottom line

 Progressive thinking led Dietz to seek

new efficiencies through technology and played an important role in the district's selection of the Siemens HCM 200 phone system from Tel Plus Communications. "With our previous phone system, I

< was leasing 126 centrex lines from Michigan Bell. With the HCM 200 we reduced the number of phone lines to 58," Dietz says. "By owning rather than leasing--plus

< the savings realized from leasing fewer centrex lines--it takes three years to pay back the cost of the phone system. "This translates to about a $21,000 annual

< savings," he explains. Before buying the phone system, Dietz

< formed an employee telephone committee, which reviewed proposals from 15 different companies. The committee narrowed the field

< down to two companies and inspected user sites for user satisfaction. "The decision was almost unanimous,"


Dietz says. Washtenaw and Tel Plus enjoyed a

< smooth transition from the old system to the new. "Our staff took quickly to the system, < trying it out, learning the different features, being proactive about it. "With voice mail, my efficiency has

< improved by at least 20%, and phone tag throughout the district has almost been eliminated. We're going to be in this technology business in a big way," Dietz promises.

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Title Annotation:Centrex/CO LANS; Washtenaw Intermediate School District installs parent-teacher network
Publication:Communications News
Date:May 1, 1992
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