Founded in 1898, Muskogee Public Schools prides itself in providing an educational environment that empowers all students to become lifelong learners and participants in an ever-changing world. Chief Operating and Technology Officer Eric Wells, a leader in change management and processes, oversees the Oklahoma school district’s technology division as well as the maintenance and facility departments. This is a guest post by Eric Wells. 

At Muskogee Public Schools, the motto is “every heart, every mind, every day,” and it guides everything we do. For our 5,300 students, many of whom come from low-income households, school may be the best shot they have to break the cycle of poverty. We do everything we can to help them succeed. That includes providing free breakfast and lunch, support for their families, and the best education we can.

Technology plays a big role in our schools. We’ve always been fortunate to have forward-thinking leaders willing to invest in the tools students and teachers need to thrive. That includes the Fab Lab, a maker space with the equipment to build and create, and New Tech at Cherokee Elementary, a tech-infused venture into project-based learning. Plus, every Muskogee student gets their own Chromebook and hotspot—essential tools for today’s classroom that they may not otherwise be able to access.

I hear my peers at other school districts complain about their expensive, painful storage cycle. I used to be one of them. Now I tell them how easy and affordable it can be. Eric Wells, Muskogee Public Schools

It’s my job to keep the school district’s core systems running, from ERP and finance applications to the student information system (SIS) used for attendance and grades. These systems support general operations for the district and give teachers the tools they need to keep classrooms running smoothly. My job involves managing equipment with a lot of blinking lights in a back room not many people see. But I never forget that I work for the students—and the technology should do the same thing—which is why we use Pure Storage®.

“Performance at a Higher Level Than We Ever Dreamed We Could Afford”

When I first talked to Pure Storage, I was convinced the technology was out of our price range. Turns out, I was wrong. Even on a K-12 budget, we could afford to install two Pure FlashArray™ devices in our data centers, taking advantage of the advanced features and powerful performance the flash technology provides. Plus, Pure Evergreen Storage™ will keep our investment fresh down the road when most storage investments start to lose their luster. 

From the very beginning, it was like having an “easy button.” We worked with Pure Professional Services and Pinnacle Business Solutions to make sure we got the implementation right. It took just a day from start to finish. That allowed us to migrate during the middle of a semester without disrupting school operations. We’ve never had such a huge project go so smoothly.

Today, storage is performing at a much higher level than we ever dreamed we could afford. Everything is much faster, including large reports for district-wide payroll and school board meetings. Replication jobs are completed in as few as six seconds—instead of hours. At the same time, we reduced data by 10x and went from 12 rack units to just 3, cutting our power and cooling costs and freeing up room for growth. In recent months, we’ve been able to host a new document imaging system to help Muskogee Public Schools go paperless, as well as new cybersecurity systems on 10 Microsoft Windows servers and our virtual server environment. The district even launched a new response to intervention (RTI) tool, which helps teachers and administrators identify students who might be struggling and step in early to get them back on track.

We put the FlashArray devices in place , and we were lucky we did. Without the performance Pure provides, I have no doubt we would have been in a huge bind. Our spinning disks wouldn’t have kept up with the shift to learning and working at home, as more teachers accessed the student information system remotely to take attendance and record grades. And we wouldn’t have had the support we needed. Our previous storage vendor didn’t see us as a priority, but Pure Storage does. We know we can count on expert help and fast response times as we work to keep students learning during this year.

Meanwhile, we’re preparing to do our first non-disruptive software upgrade with Pure Evergreen. We’re confident we can complete it during the busiest time of the day, without interrupting reports and backups.

More Time with Students, Less with Blinking Lights

With Pure Storage, I no longer have to worry that something might go wrong. And my team doesn’t have to babysit the system to make sure it’s working. That lets us focus on what really matters—putting students first.

Instead of spending all our time around blinking lights, we can help those who need it the most. For example, Muskogee Public Schools hosts a weekly Parent University. Every Tuesday night at the mall food court, staff members help students and whomever support their learning at home—parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles—cope with remote learning, whether it’s algebra homework or a history project. My team and I help with tech issues like fixing a Chromebook or resetting a hotspot.

As the use of technology rises in K-12 education, making smart technology investments is more important than ever. I hear my peers at other school districts complain about their expensive, painful storage cycle. I used to be one of them. Now I tell them how easy and affordable it can be. 

As for Muskogee Public Schools, we’ll be a Pure customer for a long time. The relationship is there, the support is there, and the product speaks for itself.

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