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SSISD Tripling Internet Bandwidth District-Wide, Upgrading Security At SSHS

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Sulphur Springs High School Partnering with TWC To Offer New Innovative Class Through ‘Opportunity Now’ Program

Sulphur Springs ISD will be tripling district’s internet bandwidth from 1 GB to 3GB to keep up with increased internet usage. An upgrade to security equipment at the high school this summer will also be preformed. The school district also plans to implement an “innovative” career and technology course in the coming school year.

Exinda Packet Shaper

In order to expand internet service above 1 GB, to accommodate the numerous devices acquired over the past few years and in use regularly during the school year, the core network equipment must be updated. That means the district will need to upgrade the packet shaper, the device that manages the network traffic, SSISD Technology Coordinator Rodney White explained.

The packet shaper gives the district the ability to dictate how much bandwidth is used for each application, such as YouTube, web traffic and streaming music. This ensures things that SSISD prioritizes, such as testing, have sufficient bandwidth. SSISD has satisfactorily used an Extinda packet shaper for several years, but the current device can only handle 1 GB of bandwidth, according to White.

SSISD Board of Trustees Vice President Craig Roberts and Technology Coordinator Rodney White

Bandwidth, White explained, is like a four lane highway going into Dallas. After a while it gets congested with more traffic on it, so the highway is expanded. So expanding the bandwidth to 3 GB would be like expanding the highway from four to 12 lanes going into Dallas. The packet shaper then manages the traffic. Just as one 18-wheeler passing another 18-wheeler on the highway can slow traffic down.

Without the shaper, there is nothing to prevent the bandwidth hogs streaming music and videos from congesting the network. The packet shaper would then essentially keep the 18-wheelers in the right hand lane, and would essentially create HOV lanes for those using the network for important priority functions, such as testing, so that would access as much bandwidth as needed for those priority tasks.

“The packet shaper ensures that the important things don’t get slowed down – don’t get interrupted by more nonessential things,” White said. 

“Can you change that in the moment, like say today’s a testing day, shut everything down everything else?” asked SSISD Board of Trustees Secretary Jason Dietze, when White pitched the proposal to the school board during their regular June meeting.

“Yes, for testing we can give them 90 percent of the bandwidth, ratchet everything else down,” White replied “Whatever we deem important, we can ensure they get all the bandwidth they need.”

White noted that the district has been able to stay at 1 gig for so long because of the packet shaper. A 3 gig network that is manager, he added, is more efficient than a 10 gig network that is unmanaged. The district has used the 1 GB shaper for about 10 years, and White anticipates a 3G packet shaper should last about that long as well. And, the model he recommended, is expandable up to 10 GB.

He recommended purchasing the Extinda packet shaper from CDW-G, a TIPS approved vendor, for $53,088.01. The company was also the low bidder, and Extinda is the same type system already in use. The bid, he said, is cheapest for what SSISD needs it to do.

SSISD Superintendent Mike Lamb said while the cost isn’t in the technology budget, he anticipates being able to use some $11.5 million in federal ESSER grants the district is eligible to apply for to fund the necessary upgrade.

SSISD Board Trustee Leesa Toliver made a motion, which was seconded by Vaughn, and approved by the rest of the board present at the June 15 meeting, to purchase the Extinda packet shaper to extend the district’s broadband width from 1 GB to 3GB from CDW-G for $53,088.01.

Security Update

SSISD Director of Maintenance Dan Froneberger also asked trustees earlier this month to consider approving an $82,547.35 proposal from Allied Universal to update the access control system at the high school. The system there is very weak due to lightning hits over the past 5-6 years.

Allied Universal supplied all of the new equipment and upgrades to SSISD in the last 5 years and their components will interchange with all of the district’s other schools as well.

The proposal would upgrade security systems at Sulphur Springs High School from the multipurpose facility east. The tennis and track facilities have fairly new systems.

SSISD Director of Maintenance Dan Froneberger

Of the three SSISD facilities where security has not been upgrades in recent years, the system at SSHS is in worse shape than those systems at Sulphur Springs Elementary and the Administration building, Froneberger noted. When there’s an issue, from say a lightning strike, SSISD personnel aren’t able to go to the server room to a computer to reset the security systems. Someone has to go door to door, climbing into the ceiling to rest the readers for each room.

“That makes for a bad day when they call from the high school and none of the doors are working at 8 o’clock and school is starting when we had a storm the night before,” Froneberger said.

He proposed replacing all of them. He noted that when SSISD took in the old tech center building at one end of the property, a secure hallway was constructed, attaching the building to the high school. Two of those doors inside of the building aren’t connected to the system.

Parts removed from the high school would be placed into storage to serve as replacement parts until the SSES and Administration campuses are upgraded too.

The new access control system would match those at other campuses, coming from the same company – Allied Universal. The company serves as tech support for all of the district doors, working hand-in-hand with maintenance worker Sanford Shell and the rest of the maintenance team to install the systems and work on them when needed.

The $82,547.35 includes the base price plus doors not already in the system. It is also about $7,000 less than the district paid when they started the access control system program at the elementary campuses about 6 years ago.

Randy Hutchison [with Allied Universal Technology Services] said if we get a PO this week, they felt confident that we would be able to go in before school,” Froneberger said, when asked if the company has all of the parts readily on hand.

Roberts made a motion, which was seconded by Dietze, to allow Allied Universal to upgrade the access control system at SSHS for $82,547.35.

Innovative CTE Course

Also new at SSHS news year will be a new innovated career and technology education course.

SSHS Director of College and Career Readiness, and Career and Technical Education Director Jenny Arledge and SSHS Special Education Coordinator Courtney Anglin proposed partnering with Texas Workforce Commission to offer a new course called ” Opportunity Now” in the 2021-22 school years. SSHS was provided the opportunity to offer an “Opportunity Now” program.

Sulphur Springs High School

The class would need to directly align with the program intent, and would be funded by TWC; the agency would also provide instructors to teach “General Employability Skills,” and the class would be taught at SSHS and would require an SSISD CTE teacher of record to assist the incoming instructor with attendance, grade and other tasks.

This would be for students who are already in or candidates for the Connections program. This would provide transition services to help prepare the students with real world skills to get and keep a job.

The proposal was presented to the school board on Arledge and Anglin’s behalf by Assistant Superintendent Josh Williams on June 15 as well.

Dietze made the motion, which was seconded by Toliver, to approve the proposal for the partnership with TWC to enable SSHS to offer the class to students in the 2021 school year. The SSISD Board of trustees approved the proposal during the group’s regular meeting June 15, 2021.

Author: Faith Huffman

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