Customer Story

For the No. 1 private high school in America, nothing less than the No 1. cloud communications solution would suffice


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The most sought-after boarding school in the US for decades

Business Insider Magazine calls Phillips Exeter Academy the Best Boarding School in the US. The education review site named Exeter the Best Private High School in America. And the Academy’s former students include governors, senators, Nobel Prize winners, Olympic medalists, bestselling authors, tech entrepreneurs, and even a US president.

Several factors have contributed to Exeter’s reputation as a top residential school. It caters to a wide range of academic interests, offering 450 courses across 19 subjects. The school literally invented one of the most popular boarding-school teaching approaches: the discussion-based Harkness method. And the faculty have earned a reputation as the best teachers in the country.

But a key component of the faculty’s ability to offer an outstanding educational experience is being accessible to students—outside the classroom as well as inside it. And that requires a flexible, convenient communications solution, which is why Exeter retired its on-prem PBX and other legacy telephony services and moved to RingCentral.

An invaluable IT communications resource during the lockdowns

Scott Heffner, Exeter’s Director of IT, explains that his team had been planning an overhaul of the school’s communications infrastructure for some time, but COVID added new urgency. “Out of nowhere, this traditional school with a centuries-long history as a brick-and-mortar academy had to shift its entire staff to remote work and send all students home as well.”

But as Scott points out, moving to the unified cloud RingCentral MVP (Message, Video, Phone) with RingCentral Video helped Exeter continue operating, communicating, and educating—even as a remote institution for the first time in its history.

This boarding school used RingCentral MVP to communicate, collaborate and educate

“Our faculty needed to stay connected to students and parents.  In the past, that meant giving out their personal cell phone numbers which made it hard for faculty to know when calls were personal or Academy-related. RingCentral took care of that. Our teachers can use RingCentral on their computers or mobile phones to talk and text—and it all happens through their Exeter phone number.”

Moving to RingCentral also helped Exeter streamline its telephony platforms and make communicating easier and more convenient for the entire Academy. “We were using different solutions for phone calls, voicemail, call recording, audio conferences, and video conferences,” Scott says. “RingCentral let us put all that functionality into one app that our faculty and staff could use anywhere, on any device. It really made all the difference during the pandemic.”

Finding creative ways to improve operations with RingCentral

As Scott explains, RingCentral offers so much flexibility and functionality that the Academy has continued finding new ways to improve its operations with the platform. For example, when the school had to create temporary housing to quarantine for students potentially exposed to COVID, they used RingCentral phones to connect those dorms to their main Health Center.

When the social distancing guidance required Exeter to reduce its dorms from double to single occupancy, and the Academy booked a hotel for students and their dorm heads, RingCentral again served as a communication bridge. “Phone service wasn’t part of our rental agreement with the hotel,” Scott explains. “But that wasn’t a problem because our dorm heads had the RingCentral apps on their phones and laptops, so staying in contact with everyone was easy.”

Improving students’ well-being with RingCentral Video

Finally, one of Scott’s favorite examples of improving operations with RingCentral involved the Academy’s Counseling and Psychological Services department. “When the stress of the lockdowns, remote learning, and the pandemic itself took a toll on some Exeter students, the school’s Counseling and Psychological Services team found itself needing to find a way to offer those students care—even from a distance. As Scott explains, RingCentral Video provided the answer.

“RingCentral Video allowed our school counselors to have secure sessions with students struggling with COVID and the stress of distance learning. It was invaluable to know that we had a HIPAA-compliant solution and were protecting our students’ privacy, while still getting them the help they needed.”

Originally published Aug 24, 2021

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