Shawn Beard Honored as Outstanding Employee

Shawn Beard, Penn Manor’s Enterprise Systems Engineer, was recently honored as an outstanding district employee for 2015.

Shawn’s is a somewhat elusive member of the PM Technology Team. His day-to-day tasks are often performed behind the curtain–but without him, we’d notice. Shawn is responsible for managing and maintaining our most complex and critical technical infrastructure. He diligently and expertly wrangles district networks and servers, and solves our toughest engineering issues. We call this stuff virtualization, IP routing, DNS, firewall rules, and SSL. To students and staff it means: “Hurray, the Internet is working!”

Shawn joined my team in the fall of 2000, and he has been instrumental in the design and launch of nearly every major IT system at Penn Manor. I have tremendous admiration for Shawn as a colleague and technologist. Year after year, he sets new records for technical excellence. He is incessantly innovative, and his work translates into outstanding learning experiences for our students. I’m so proud that he has been an integral part of my team, and the Penn Manor family, for the past 15 years. Cheers to my IT partner, Shawn Beard!

Three other district rock stars were also recognized. Amy Wiggins, Central Manor fourth-grade teacher, and Melissa McMichael, high school special-education teacher, were honored as Outstanding Educators of the Year. Dottie Bleacher, Marticville Middle School secretary, was named Outstanding Secondary Employee of the Year. Congratulations to this amazing group!

Penn Manor Mobile App

PM Mobile AppPenn Manor’s updated and expanded mobile app is now available for download on your phone or tablet!  The app includes a number of features not available in our previous district news app. Students and parents can now stay connected to school news, events, calendars, menus and more. Unlike paper calendars and schedules of the past, the app is updated on-the-fly as events are added, rescheduled or postponed. Plus students, parents and staff can receive breaking updates on weather closings and other district news.

The free app is available immediately for both Android and iOS phones and tablets. A number of new features are already in the works. Watch for changes and additions to the app over the next few months.



Help Desk Phone Support Changes

Red Phone Booths

Penn Manor School District is a big place. With 10 buildings and a 110 square mile footprint, providing immediate tech support for staff and students is an ongoing challenge. I am fortunate to have stellar IT staff, but my small crew is often stretched a little thin. For example, our help desk line consists of one dedicated person, Gina Brubaker. There are times when calls fall into voicemail simply because she is already on the phone, away from the desk, in a meeting or helping another staff member.

Experimental attempts to clone Gina have thus far proven unsuccessful, so we are trying a new plan. We recently restructured the 1776 help desk line to behave more like a classic call center. Various members of the IT Team log into the help desk line throughout the day. When a support call arrives, Gina’s phone rings first. If she is already on a call or otherwise unavailable, the call transfers to the next available tech support person. The new call routing system provides backup for Gina, and increases the likelihood of reaching a live person when help is needed most.

Behind the support curtain, the Penn Manor IT Team now uses an internal IRC server for real-time communication. In addition to our tech support chats, status reports from our Kayako ticket system and Nagios network monitoring tools are piped into the IRC stream. All chat transcripts all logged to an internal webpage, so my team can go back in time to review history and tech support discussions. Personally, I love the IRC server because it establishes a convenient space room for my entire team and provides a central dashboard on district technology support.

While staff replication experiments will continue in earnest, I think the new help line configuration and IRC server will create better customer support experiences for our academic community.

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Photo credit: scott1723