Farmington Municipal Schools, Keeping Up with a Class Act
K-12 Beginning to Look Like the Enterprise
Farmington Municipal Schools (FMS), based in Farmington, New Mexico, are a kindergarten-12th grade (K-12) school system with 18 schools within the district:
- 10 Elementaries
- 4 Middle Shools
- 2 High Schools
- 2 Alternative Education High Schools
Between these schools, faculty and staff devices, and IT management, the IT team at FMS are managing over 12,000 devices at any given time, partly due to their policy of 1-to-1 Computing.
1-to-1 Computing, also called 1-to-1 Technology, means that every student is provided a device (laptop, tablet, etc) by the school district. While this concept has been around since the 1990s, it became very common over the last few years due to the Covid Pandemic.
Like many school districts, FMS is administering more and more devices, handling several sites, and doing all that with the same amount of IT resources. Currently their team consists of the Executive Director of Technology, Assistant Director of Technology, and about 10 specialists either dedicated to specific schools or to specific technology domains, such as security and networking. Needless to say, this team stays busy whether school is in or out for summer. As the amount of services and devices grow, complexity increases, and management and orchestration solutions become necessary for keeping up with the rate of change in technology.
Knowledge is Power
While most of FMS’ infrastructure lives on-premises currently, they are using some SaaS solutions like Google Workspace and PowerSchool – SIS (Student Information System). Realizing that their environment would only grow in complexity, the directors of technology planned to make their networks more consistent. Consistency leads to simpler operational experiences and easier troubleshooting. This is a smart step to take when trying ease operational friction while maintaining IT resources.
“The team worked hard to bring all of our networks under one umbrella so we don’t have odd things happening as one-off issues at one site. We wanted to be able to easily answer the questions of who did this and why at any of our sites.”
Assistant Director of Technology
They did things like standardize on Apple computers and started using management tools like Jamf for Apple device management. FMS standardized their server infrastructure on Linux for the most part, though there are certain solutions which still require them to use Windows Servers. With the exception of their backup environment, their servers all run as virtual machines (VMs) on VMware. They’re managing and deploying security cameras and devices consistently, as physical security becomes perhaps the most important aspect of IT and facilities management. Even down to the printers they use within each school, FMS has standardized to make life easier.
Best in Class
The FMS IT team are masters of the balancing act between maintaining and growing at a sustainable pace. They’ve been using Micetro (nee Men&Mice Suite) since 1996, marking about 25 years of our partnership together. Even though they started with very early versions of the solution, they’ve kept up with the simple and reliable upgrades and are actually running a very recent version.
As of this writing, FMS is running Micetro 10.2. 10.3 came out the previous month in June 2022.
Initially FMS used Micetro for simple DNS management. They use ISC BIND for their underlying DNS service and ISC for DHCP as well, which works well with their Linux infrastructure.
“One of the reasons we’ve stuck with Micetro for so long is because it’s super stable. It’s fast, it’s simple. When we have to go in and make changes to the DNS…we just don’t have problems with it.”
Assistant Director of Technology
Over the years, FMS commented, Micetro has gotten even easier to use, another reason they stick with the solution. Having an intuitive interface is extremely important to creating a simplified operational experience for IT teams. As FMS started using other capabilities, such as DHCP, within Micetro they’ve also started embracing the web UI for more management tasks.
Can I Borrow Your Notes
As tribal knowledge naturally starts to get lost it’s important to make sure information is documented in an easily understood way. The problem with documentation is that it’s generally lower priority than making sure students are online, teachers can access the SIS, or a hundred other things that may happen during the day. Using solutions, like Micetro, which have built-in and automated documentation capabilities just makes it easier to share information in context.
Only after we share information can we enable other people to take on some of the daily tasks required to keep up with student, teacher, and faculty needs. FMS can now easily have their technicians make changes to and troubleshoot the DDI environment whether they are comfortable with the Linux command line or more comfortable using the Micetro GUI.
Back to School
IT admins for school districts never have a shortage of work on their hands and the team at FMS are no exception. Somehow they still manage to plan for multiple new projects in the near future, though. On the docket will be extending their use of Micetro for DHCP. There are a couple use cases here which include making more efficient use of DHCP by:
- Automating security device deployments
- Integrating with their new Fortinet wireless access points
- Using AWS End User Computing (EUC, or sometimes referred to as VDI, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) especially for applications which don’t run on MacOS.
We at Men&Mice are looking forward to seeing, and helping, Farmington Municipal Schools get these projects and others going in the simplest and most sustainable way possible.
For More Homework
If you’d like to get more information on how Micetro can help your school district or other business with your DNS, DHCP, and IPAM needs, please schedule a personalized demo by clicking here.