The Houston County Board of Education oversees the Houston County School District, which educates 30,000 K-12 students across 37 campuses. The District’s students consistently outperform state and national test averages, and its schools and employees have garnered numerous state and national awards for outstanding achievements. In 2020, the Board celebrated its 150-year anniversary.
When choosing a community to raise or start a family, one of the most important factors for parents is the quality of the local schools. For decades, discerning parents have been drawn to Houston County, Georgia, in large part due to its reputation for educational excellence.
It would be difficult to overstate the degree to which Georgia’s Houston County School District has distinguished itself in academic achievement over the years. By virtually every conceivable metric, the county’s K-12 schools are exceeding the main mission of the Houston County Board of Education: to produce high-achieving students.
Just a few examples: Georgia has awarded the Houston County Board of Education the “Exemplary Board” designation for several years in a row. The nonprofit ranking service GreatSchools lists the District as “well above average” in school quality. And year after year, Houston County high school students outperform both state and national averages on SAT scores.
Achieving this level of academic excellence across 37 campuses requires talent and dedication from its educators and outstanding leadership from administrators and staff. Those traits are in evidence across the Houston County School District as well. In fact, Forbes named the School District “Georgia’s #1 Employer” in 2020—ahead of even such household-name employers as Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines.
But like academic institutions across the country, the Houston County Board of Education found its entire teaching model suddenly threatened by the pandemic lockdowns.
Rolling out a new call center… in a day
Once the administration team at the Houston County Board realized they’d be offering parents the option of distance learning, they got to work right away setting up digital teaching solutions. “We quickly got ramped up on Google Classroom and sent out thousands of Chromebooks to students who needed them,” says Brian Trent, the Board’s Director of Technology.
About a third of the School District’s student body—nearly 10,000 students—took the distance-learning option. That created another significant challenge, one the Board had never faced before. “Right away, we got tons of calls from parents and teachers who were new to these tools, felt very stressed out about this remote learning arrangement, and needed our help.”
Fortunately, with the likelihood increasing of a statewide shutdown, Brian and his team had already signed up for RingCentral’s work-from-anywhere communications solution. When he realized that both teachers and the parents of remote students would face challenges using their new digital tools, Brian turned his RingCentral solution into a distributed call center. And he did it literally overnight.
“RingCentral set me up with an admin account. That night, from home, I logged into the system, spent about 30 minutes learning how it worked, and was able to set up our users and call groups after watching just a couple of short how-to videos.”
By the next morning, the technology team—some of whom were on campus but most at home—were taking support calls in shifts, through the RingCentral desktop app on their computers or the RingCentral mobile app on their cell phones.
Overnight, our small, mostly remote team became the tech-support call center for all of our District’s distance learners—many of whom needed a lifeline. Thanks to RingCentral, we were able to provide those lifelines right from the beginning.
Director of Technology
Providing outstanding service when their community needed it most
As the Houston County Board of Education looks back on its performance during the 2020 pandemic, one of the team’s proudest achievements is that they were able to continue providing world-class support to students, parents, and teachers. And they share the credit for this with RingCentral.
As Information Technology Coordinator Jennifer Hobbs explains: “Because we had a phone solution that made it easy to take calls anywhere, we had no problem offering parents longer call center hours. We kept the lines staffed 7 am to 7 pm, to accommodate parents who worked late or wanted to resolve issues in the morning before their kids started the school day. We’re extremely proud we were able to go that extra mile for our parents when they needed us most.”
The year 2020 was an awful time for a lot of reasons. But there are some positive things that came out of it. The fact that the lockdowns prompted us to upgrade our phone system to the much more flexible and effective RingCentral is definitely one of them.
Director of Technology