Holland Hall School

100-2,499 Employees

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Technology should be just another tool like a pencil or book, to work seamlessly. That was the kind of system we got from Avaya.

– Henry Finch, Director of IT, Holland Hall School


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As Device Population Doubles, School Network Passes Test

 When high school students at Tulsa’s Holland Hall recently read Macbeth, their teacher chose a very 21st-Century way to help them learn the material. Students filmed video trailers for the play and uploaded them to YouTube.com. Then, the entire high school voted for their favorites using their smart phones.

“We had a film fest of sorts and made the learning more public,” said J.P. Culley, Head of School. “Technology has become a conduit at Holland Hall for project-based, challenge-based learning experiences like this.”

The independent, coeducational day school serves nearly 1,000 students from preschool through high school, with a primary focus on preparing students for the competitive college or university environment. These days, technology has become an integral part of being college-ready.

To prepare students, Holland Hall has set an ambitious technology strategy. This year, the school gave all students in grades 6-8 Apple iPads. Next year, the school moves to 1-to-1 computing for all high school students, who will bring their own laptops. At Holland Hall, these devices are seen as tools for students to tap into sources of information outside the school and bring the events of the world into learning.

“Technology allows us to outsource the knowledge base piece of education, the facts you need to find. We can give students easy access to ‘cheap genius,’ online,” Culley said. “They can be efficient in doing that on their own so that when they are with teachers they can apply that information and create new things.”

The Avaya team walked the campus and did a lot of listening before saying, ‘Here’s your solution.’ They asked a lot of good questions and designed something that would meet our needs for the long term. Throughout the process, they were accessible and ready with answers.

Henry Finch, Director of IT, Holland Hall School

Holland Hall

To achieve that vision, connectivity must be available at every corner of this 162-acre campus, both inside and out. But there was a time when the Macbeth project wouldn’t have been so easy to pull off; there simply wasn’t enough bandwidth on the school’s 20-year-old network for hundreds of students to tap it at once.

When their lesson plans included network use, teachers regularly called the school’s small IT department as a heads up. IT staff members would first run a test to make sure the network could handle it. 

“We rely on the network for so many things. We were always having to adjust bandwidth so we wouldn’t take away from academic needs,” said Henry Finch, Director of Technology. “There was always a lot of advance planning and communication with teachers, especially for something like Skyping with someone in a foreign country for language classes. Often, we would just give them a wired connection as insurance against drops.” 

As Holland Hall looked to the future, its plans outsized its outdated network. The school needed to support a rapidly escalating number of devices, a new video surveillance system, and future applications such as a unified communications system. 

Teachers always had a PLAN B for if the network had a problem. Now, they can run with PLAN A, which is so much better.

Henry Finch, Director of IT, Holland Hall School

Holland Hall

Holland Hall initially tried to upgrade to an Internet Protocol (IP) video surveillance system, but quickly took a step back when it became clear that the network wasn’t capable of handling the additional load. After evaluating several providers, the school chose to deploy a new network foundation with Avaya Fabric Connect to accommodate its high-bandwidth needs now and into the future. 

“Avaya stood out for its flexibility and the tools for managing the network,” Finch said. “We had great confidence that the same technology that was used in the Sochi Olympics would meet our needs. If it worked on the far east side of Russia, it will work in Tulsa.”

Avaya Fabric Connect delivers a simplified and resilient infrastructure that makes network configuration and deployment of new services faster and easier for the school. On the multi-path Ethernet network, traffic always takes the shortest path from source to destination, increasing performance and efficiency. It also gives Holland Hall a flexible framework on which to add applications in the future.

Avaya and Holland Hall had to move quickly to ensure the school was ready for the start of the new academic year. The IT team worked closely with Avaya to design the network for voice, video and networking. 

On the Avaya Fabric Connect foundation, Holland Hall deployed a wireless LAN powerful enough for anywhere access across campus. With the majority of students connecting wirelessly from their devices, effective learning depends on high-performance, consistent coverage throughout the campus.

Due to increasing calls for safety for students and faculty, Holland Hall also moved forward with its video surveillance system with 50 Axis cameras and an Axis video management system (VMS), with the capacity to add more cameras as needed. 

With Avaya tools, the IT team has a real-time network management solution for configuration, provisioning and troubleshooting, giving them a never-before view into the network to understand – down to the access point – what applications are available and how the network is being used. 

When students arrived for the new year, Holland Hall was ready for them – including the 344 middle schoolers with their newly issued iPads. The IT team quickly noticed the difference. Before, teachers often called before they needed to use the network to ensure it was ready. Now they just go ahead and use it and network-related trouble calls have dropped to zero.

On the previous network, it would not have been possible to run a video surveillance system and academic applications over the same network. These days, Holland Hall has a state-of-the-art video surveillance system and all the bandwidth it needs for teachers and students. The ability to have a high number of cameras – without affecting academic use – helps Holland Hall maintain a safer campus environment.

“We just dropped in our IP video surveillance system and it works without impacting our student network. We can spin up whatever we need on the security side knowing we don’t need to wait until after school. We’re tickled.”

Henry Finch, Director of IT, Holland Hall School

Holland Hall

When a language lab vendor visited the high school, he was concerned about supporting the lab wirelessly because of the network traffic. The vendor found he was able to set up the Holland Hall lab with just one Avaya access point, compared to two or three with other vendors. “The language lab company was very impressed,” Finch said. “The solution is now in place and working seamlessly.”

A glitch-free network also frees the IT department to focus on other activities besides network troubleshooting, such as strategic endeavors. For this private school, Avaya Fabric Connect offers investment protection for their future technology plans. When ready, the school will be able to add additional cameras, devices, and applications, such as swapping out old phone hardware for an Internet-based unified communications system, over one converged network.

“Our voice system is starting to have failures as water has found its way into the copper wiring,” Finch said. “With an IP system, we won’t have to pull copper. We can leverage our investment in the Avaya network, leaving more money for academics.”

Finch recently counted nearly 2,200 devices for 1,000 students and 100 faculty and staff. And next year, high school students will arrive with their more than 300 laptops. Holland Hall is confident that it can handle the coming load without issue.

“Technology should be just another tool like a pencil or book, to work seamlessly,” Finch said. “That was the kind of system we were looking for and the kind of system we got.”

“It’s like when you go to great restaurant and have great server. It’s great because you don’t even notice that they’re there. You don’t even know our network is there; it’s so user friendly and reliable.”

J.P. Culley, Head of School, Holland Hall School

Holland Hall
  • Headquarters:

  • United States

  • # Employees:

  • 250

Founded in 1922, Holland Hall is an independent, coeducational, Episcopal day school that provides a challenging, comprehensive educational experience grounded in a rigorous liberal arts, college preparatory curriculum that promotes critical thinking and life-long learning. Ninety-nine percent of Holland Hall graduates attend post high school-graduate educational opportunities. Holland Hall strives to offer a challenging and supportive environment for each student. For more information, visit www.hollandhall.org.

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“Teachers always had a plan B for if the network had a problem. Now with Avaya, they can run with plan A.”

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  • Henry Finch

  • Holland Hall School