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Georgia District Standardizes Technology and Lowers Cost

Making Lenovo computers the standard, a growing district is creating 21st century learning environments.

Already bustling with 157,276 students, Georgia’s Gwinnett County Public School system continues to grow—and fast. Located just north of Atlanta, GCPS, with 114 schools, is the 14th-largest school district in the United States. Five new schools were added to the system in 2008, and 16 more will open in the next two years.

Large school systems like Gwinnett County rely heavily on their IT infrastructure. So when GCPS Chief Information Officer Scott Futrell buys computers for his district, he negotiates for a good price, but he considers total cost of ownership more important. Futrell has found that the most effective way to keep the district’s total cost of ownership low is to find reliable computers with excellent service and support — and to make them the standard in every school.

"Standards make a difference,
whether they're standards in
instruction, standards in construction,
or standards in technology."

“By having all standardized products we’re able to reduce our support costs,” Futrell said. “We found that with the quality of Lenovo products, the warranty and the service, we can greatly reduce our total cost of ownership.”

Standardizing on innovative technologies from Lenovo enables Gwinnett County teachers to infuse their lessons with constructivist principals, allowing for deeper engagement and comprehension in the classroom.

The district has more than 21,000 Lenovo ThinkCentre M Series desktops with ThinkVision Flat Panel monitors in its computer labs, while the 10,296 teachers use the ThinkPad R Series notebooks. Administrators use ThinkPad T Series or ThinkPad X Series notebooks.

By standardizing on Lenovo computers, the Gwinnett County district requires just one support person for every 500 computers or more, Futrell said. The average organization needs one person to support every 75 PCs. “It’s a combination of good, reliable equipment, the move to standardization and centralized support,” he said.

The benefits of working with a company like Lenovo are readily apparent when it comes to major projects. Gwinnett County is currently retrofitting 65 elementary schools. The $87 million project began in the spring of 2008 and is expected to be completed in December 2009.

“Working with Lenovo, when we order 10,000 or 15,000 laptops or workstations, we know they are all the same — they have the same memory set, the same processors — so we can build an image that will work properly in all of the elementary school computers,” Futrell said. “Other vendors can’t necessarily provide that in a uniform manner.”

Standardization has helped make the district’s use of technology more efficient and more effective.

“We’re running a very sophisticated network, and we’re trying to do everything we can do remotely, from desktop management to antivirus security and moving everything to Microsoft Active Directory, so consistency across the network is extremely important,” Futrell said. “Standards make a difference, whether they’re standards in instruction, standards in construction, or standards in technology. ”

The ultimate goal, he added, is to make in-class technology as reliable as the most common day-to-day certainties.

“When a teacher walks into a classroom, they expect to hit a switch and the lights come on. They need the same level of expectation that the notebooks and PCs will work, that the Internet connection will work, that the ceiling-mounted projector will work,” Futrell explained. “It’s got to be so reliable that they can depend on it, and then it becomes an integral piece of the instructional process. That’s our goal, and Lenovo has been a great partner in helping us get there.”

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