It’s Cloud Collaboration for Chapel Hill Schools
Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools deploys unified communications as a service.

NWN Communications, including:

  • End-to-end solution for 1,800 phones spread over 23 locations
  • Monitoring, management, and dedicated 24×7 end-user helpdesk support

Benefits:  Significant monthly savings, offset costs by utilizing P1 E-rate funding, increased redundancy and reliability, integrated unified messaging, ongoing hosting, support and management.

It’s Cloud Collaboration for Chapel Hill Schools

  • Industry: K-12 Education
  • |
  • Location: Orange County, NC, USA

Client Snapshot: The Chapel Hill-Carrboro School District is focused on keeping its teachers and students at the forefront of learning. They had an urgent need to replace an existing Cisco Call Manager and Unity VoIP environment, if they intended to stay on plan.


The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) is one of two public school systems in Orange County, NC, and serves over 12,000 students. Established in 1909, CHCCS is located near the flagship campus of The University of North Carolina (UNC) and the world renowned Research Triangle Park (RTP).

As a result of the district’s proximity to higher education and research facilities, the district is highly focused on the use of technology to further their community’s position as one of the highest-educated populations in America.

Chapel Hill determined that their existing Cisco Call Manager and Unity VoIP environment was on its “deathbed.” The on-site IP Telephony system was end-of-life and continued support had already become a pressing issue. In addition the server hardware was failing and already three to four versions behind.

Chapel Hill looked at on-premises versus hosted solutions. They also reached out to other schools to better assess their current situation and possible best-in-class solutions. They found out they were behind the curve and it was time to look to the Cloud for answers. They would need to replace the aging UC on premise solution and have a plan to keep current going forward on patches, upgrades and new features. The solution would also need to include service, management and support.

Most importantly, they needed to leverage the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) Schools and Libraries Program (E-Rate funding) in order to upgrade the failing infrastructure as soon as possible, yet be able to live within the approved budgeted funds they knew they had.


NWN had a long standing relationship as a trusted technology performance advisor to CHCCS. After assessing the situation, NWN recommended NWN Communications, a hosted cloud-based communications platform powered by Cisco and EMC. It included voice, video, web conferencing, telecom and contact center as a full turnkey, end-to-end solution for 1,800 phones spread over 23 locations. The solution also included the required monitoring and management of VoIP devices, as well as 24×7 end-user helpdesk support.

Knowing that financing the upgrade would be contingent on obtaining the proper E-Rate funding, NWN’s vast experience and 18 year track record with E-Rate was seen as a primary reason as to why the district chose to award NWN with the project. Working together with the district, NWN provided guidance through the technology plan and application processes. In the end, the district was successful in obtaining the P1 E-Rate funding it required. Failing to do so would have placed the urgently needed upgrade in jeopardy.

Speaking with Doug Noell, Director of Operations and IT at Chapel Hill, it is clear that in addition to their E-Rate guidance, NWN also excelled with the implementation of the new solution. In order to minimize possible disruption, NWN implemented each site’s upgrade, one at a time, over a seven to eight month period. In addition, the NWN engineers developed a site schedule typically starting at 6PM and staying late into the evening to assure there would be no problems the following day when the new system was up and running. Doug emphasized the unique set of people skills the engineers brought to the project, working with staff into the early hours of the following morning when needed.


Overall the project was a great success, from proper planning to the needed E-Rate funding to seamless implementation. In addition there are several tangible benefits that CHCCS has derived from the upgrade.

First and foremost, the district now has a sustainable Hosted Solution model in place — poised to grow as the district’s needs do so in turn. There is a solid plan to easily keep current going forward on patches, upgrades and new features. And, the district is benefiting from the ongoing hosting, support and management services, freeing up resources to focus on other needs.

Second are the significant costs savings. These include reduced licensing costs based on the cloud services solution, as well as reduced costs resulting from the ongoing management services and no longer needing to man the system internally.

Third, the district is benefiting from greater redundancy and reliability, including voice gateway alerts (standard with NWN’s Monitoring) that notify personnel in the event of the systems’ survivability failsafe for internet and communication access being down for any time.

Fourth, NWN didn’t just implement the solution, they trained CHCCS’ people on how to use the new system, allowing for rapid adoption and acceleration of the resulting benefits.

Finally, significant additional expenses were successfully offset by utilizing the P1 E-Rate funding. CHCCS now has the knowledge and experience (as well as trusted partner in NWN) to continue leveraging this incredibly valuable program. In fact, it could be said that districts like Chapel Hill would not be able to keep up with the demands for technology-enabled learning and the benefits of engaged and better prepared students, were the program not readily available.

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