Features

Craig Liggett – Bulloch County Schools

Simplifying school communications and operations while engaging students in the digital classroom

In Statesboro, Georgia, about 45 minutes outside of Savannah, Bulloch County Schools is on a mission to be a school system that offers students the opportunities to pursue the colleges and careers of their choice and become contributing members of society. This means providing students access to the technology tools, devices, programs and applications that will surely shape their future.

Craig Liggett is the chief information officer of Bulloch County Schools and he oversees the districtwide development and direction of information technology (IT). In his many years as an educator, Liggett has seen the prevalence of technology increase in schools and the flow of information change dramatically. “I started out teaching math and computer science, back when the internet was just starting to unfold,” he says. “Computers were only in lab settings, used for keyboarding and English classes to type up papers.” Now students are bringing their own devices to the school, from laptops to smartphones.

Craig Liggett - Bulloch County Schools

Liggett who also has experience as a district web developer has seen the rise of the information age firsthand and how it has shaped the way schools communicate, both internally and externally. “Now, any kind of information you want is readily available and you can get communications out to students, teachers and staff quickly,” he says.

Streamlining school operations

Controlling the flow of information has been a focal point for Liggett’s IT department and Bulloch County Schools. With 15 schools, more than 10,000 students and 1,500 employees managing information systems have been extremely important to efficiency in terms of operations.

“We’re doing some amazing things in trying to automate more of our information systems with a streamlined approach,” says Liggett.

The district has purchased ClassLink, a tool that provides everyone with 24/7 access to instructional software and files from any computer in the school, community or at home. “ClassLink offers a single sign-on source that allows all students and staff the ability to log in to the application and access all resources in the county — everything from textbook resources to internal applications, student information, central office resources and links to our Google platform with the single click of a button,” says Liggett.

“We’re also investigating ID automation tools to help us manage how staff and students get added and removed from our source data and Google Apps for Education,” adds Liggett. “This is part of our efforts to develop a more streamlined approach to operations by integrating systems and enhancing the automation process with minimal intervention on the administrative level.”

Bulloch County Schools is also increasing automation and security in terms of external access to data by vendors. “By using the IMS Global Standards as our foundation, we’ve launched a One Roster site and are working with vendors who support the One Roster standard. This will eliminate some of the administrative work with vendors,” adds Liggett.

Targeting groups with Google Classroom

In an effort to streamline classroom communications Liggett’s team has led the charge in integrating Google applications under the Google Apps for Education suite. The IT team has tied all Active Directory accounts and groups into the Google platform, streamlining student information and class accounting. “For example, if a teacher instructs fourth Period Algebra 1 at one of our middle schools, we have automated the creation of a Google group with all of the students in the class assigned to the group and the teacher set as manager of the group,” explains Liggett. “If a student moves to another school or another class, then the group is automatically adjusted for the teacher. It makes Google Classroom easier to manage for our teachers.”

Google Classroom is helping Bulloch County Schools’ teachers track assignments and improve class discussions, both in and out of the classroom. “We’re using Google Groups to help teachers and students collaborate,” says Liggett.

“We have also automated all of our staff groups which we use to email specific target groups, such as all employees, all students, elementary math teachers, middle school science teachers, media specialists, principals and so on,” says Liggett. These groups are also used to manage access to administrative and school-based Google Drive documents.

Reaching this form of automation required Bulloch County Schools to integrate its HR financial source data and student information source data with their Active Directory database on a nightly basis which is then synchronized with Google.

Solid infrastructure at the core

To ensure reliable connectivity and that everything from Google Apps to ClassLink works seamlessly, Liggett and his team have made many infrastructure improvements in the last four years. “We’ve upgraded our core locations to 10 gigabytes of fiber and our satellite schools are connected by 1-gigabyte fiber. Over time we will move all locations to 10 gigabytes, but we have not secured the funds for this project yet,” says Liggett.

Part of this overhaul has been implementation of wireless in our schools. “We now have Wi-Fi access points in every classroom,” says Liggett. “We also have 2 gigabytes of Internet bandwidth to support our staff and students. At the same time, we upgraded our firewall and content filter.” These upgrades were purchased with local funds in conjunction with a grant provided by the State department of education.

With the right infrastructure in place, Liggett sees a bright future for Bulloch County Schools’ students. “We’re always looking for new ways to solve challenges for students and teachers and to bring exciting tools that help teachers teach and students learn,” he says. “After many years as a teacher, I know what they’re dealing with in the classroom. We don’t want to add more work for our teachers; we simply want to enhance their instructional impact on our children.”

Craig Liggett and the IT team at Bulloch County Schools are working to ease the burden on teachers, streamline school communications, optimize operations and help prepare students for future careers with a focused technology approach.

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