Tech Support Changes

For a number of years, District schools and facilities have been served by a combination of the centralized Help Desk, along with a technician who is assigned to a group of buildings.  Typically, technicians are responsible for 6-10 schools, depending upon school size, and handle almost all types of support requests generated from those buildings.  The three comprehensive high schools are each served by a full-time technician, each of whom also have responsibilities related to the student technician internship program.  

While this approach provides consistency for our schools and other sites – who can generally anticipate being supported by a single individual – it creates substantial challenges in terms of coverage for long-term absences, limits our ability to efficiently specialize support, and makes it difficult to respond to demand surges (at the beginning of the school year, for instance).  

Implementing a New Model

Beginning today, we will be implementing a new model that maintains the high school building technician roles – support services for the high schools will remain largely unchanged – but expands the role of our Help Desk while converting technician assignments to support category-based rather than building based for all other schools and sites.  For example, if a printer-related ticket is submitted by Borlaug Elementary, the technician responding will be one who has printing as a category assignment, rather than a technician who has Borlaug as an assigned school.  

The support categories align with those in our ticketing system, and include: 

  • Accounts, Software, and Cloud Services
  • Classroom Technology, Networking/Internet, and Printing
  • Hardware Repair and Support

Each category will have two assigned technicians, providing greater resiliency in the event that one staff member is unavailable.  Service will still be delivered via the Help Desk and in schools and classrooms, and this model will allow the department to more accurately assign support requests to the proper technician(s), to target our internal professional development around areas of specialization, and to provide more consistent service throughout the District.  

Continue reading Tech Support Changes

PowerSchool Performance Issues Resolved

Grant Wood AEA and the PowerSchool Hosting team believe that they have resolved the problems that led to the PowerSchool performance issues we’ve experienced through the past two weeks.  

ICCSD’s PowerSchool instance has been operating normally today.  We will be monitoring the performance of this system to identify and address any further problems.  

PowerSchool Performance Issues Ongoing

As was the case last week, we are seeing serious PowerSchool performance issues again this morning.  These issues have been reported to our service provider, Grant Wood AEA, to be resolved through PowerSchool’s hosting services.  

At this point, we do not have a resolution ETA, though we will update the blog with information as it becomes available.  

3:43 PM Update: PowerSchool hosting believes that they have identified the root cause of this issue, but the solution has not yet been fully implemented and tested.  I will post a follow-up to this post when we can verify a resolution and/or timeframe.  

Fellowship Opportunity for ICCSD Teachers

Digital Promise, one of ICCSD’s partners on research projects and initiatives related to computational thinking, data interoperability, and learner variability, has released a call for applications for the next cohort of HP Teaching Fellows. The HP Teaching Fellows program supports elementary and secondary school educators who demonstrate powerful teaching and learning with technology. Ideal candidates design authentic, personally relevant lessons that challenge students and encourage collaboration.

The program provides educators the opportunity to:

  • Bring visibility to best practices happening within their school and district
  • Share thought leadership at national conferences and in various publications
  • Build community with innovative educators across the United States and Canada
  • Share and learn best practices with their peers and experts at Digital Promise
  • Earn micro-credentials for free
  • Experiment with new tech tools in their classrooms

There is no fee to apply or participate in HP Teaching Fellows. For priority consideration, educators should apply by Sunday, November 17 at:  http://go.pardot.com/e/414542/2PC5m5W/5dwzzn/993837131?h=zUfL4fzaio1ANLM0VOULmtSD4tlkVogIhWkFwnqEnfs

Continue reading Fellowship Opportunity for ICCSD Teachers

PowerSchool Maintenance

Per my post yesterday, PowerSchool configured a new server to host ICCSD’s PowerSchool instance and transitioned to the new server yesterday afternoon.  The goal with this transition was to address performance concerns that have existed since August, but have been amplified in recent weeks. 

Please report performance issues that you notice to the Help Desk. We’ve already received some reports that performance problems have not been fully resolved, and continue to with with PowerSchool through Grant Wood AEA to resolve these issues.

PowerSchool Down This Afternoon

ICCSD has been struggling with intermittent PowerSchool performance issues since the beginning of the year, with consistent problems with access and performance throughout the past week.  As our site is hosted by PowerSchool itself, we’ve been working through Grant Wood AEA to address these issues on the hosting end.  

PowerSchool has built a new server instance that they believe will rectify the issues we’ve faced, and will be transitioning our site to the new server this afternoon (11/7/19) at 4:30 PM.  We do not have an ETA for an outage during this transition, but staff, parents, and students should expect that the outage will last into the evening of 11/7.  

Once the transition is completed, we expect that our PowerSchool performance will be restored to normal, and that problems with grading, attendance, portal access, and synchronizations will be resolved.  

EMAIL SPOOFING ON THE RISE

Good Afternoon,

I’m sure by now you are all familiar with and have experienced email phishing, but today I’m reaching out to discuss another very popular tactic called email spoofing.

Email spoofing is a type of forgery that makes the email look like it’s from a boss or colleague in need. They will often send a short, vague and sometimes desperate email in attempt to get you to reply to the message. Recently, school districts (including ours) have been hit hard with these attempts. Just in the last week we’ve seen five building administrator’s accounts spoofed.

You can generally tell that these are fake emails by looking at the email address the message is being sent from.  For example, the account doe.john@iowacityschools.org would be someone from the district and should be safe to reply to. However, an email from johndoe12@gmail.comprincipaljohndoe@yahoo.com, or even doe.john.iowacityschools.org@gmail.com are fake and potentially malicious. These are only examples and this is not an exhaustive list.

Here are few email best practices put together by the Help Desk.

  • Do not send confidential or sensitive information via email.
  • Do not send money or gift cards via email.
  • Always verify the sender’s address.
  • Keep an eye out for a yellow or red warning across the top of an email.


As always, if you have questions or suspect a spoofed email, contact the Help Desk.


Thanks,

Josh Reynolds
Client Services Manager

National IT Professionals Day

September 17th, 2019 is National IT Professionals Day!

At the Iowa City Community School District, we have a variety of roles in our tech department. Here are the types of IT professionals that make up our technology and innovation staff, and the ways they support tech throughout the district!

Continue reading National IT Professionals Day

Fiber Cut 9/11/2019

Final Update: District fiber has been rerouted and all services have been restored. If you have any additional connection issues please contact the Helpdesk. 
 
 
 
Update:Internet and phone services have been restored at all schools except for Hoover, Lemme, and Lucas. 
 
The following update was provided to families of the remaining affected schools.
 

“We wanted to make you aware that construction crews working on a private development in Iowa City cut and damaged over 1,000 feet of Iowa City Community School District and city-owned fiber optic cable, which caused an internet outage at the end of the school day Wednesday, September 11. The outage impacted City and Tate High Schools, South East Junior High, and Alexander, Hills, Hoover, Lemme, Lucas, Twain, and Wood Elementary Schools. As of Wednesday early evening, services have been restored to City, Tate, South East, Alexander, Hills, Twain, and Wood by using a secondary fiber optic path.   

Unfortunately, there is no redundant fiber path available for Hoover, Lemme, and Lucas Elementary Schools. Crews will be working through the night to establish a temporary fiber route for these buildings, with a best-case completion timeline of Thursday morning. In the meantime, internet and phone services at Hoover, Lemme, and Lucas will be unavailable. Parents who need to get in touch with the school by phone can still call the school’s regular number, and those calls will be routed through district office staff. The district is working to establish cellular phone and data services in the affected buildings to provide for communications needs.  

We appreciate your patience as we work through this issue.”

 
Orginal Notice: A fiber connection providing internet services for the school district and the City of Iowa City have been cut somewhere between the ESC and SEJH. Repair crews have been dispatched and are currently working on locating the cut. The following schools are affected and will do not have the internet.
 
  • Lucas
  • Lemme
  • Hoover
  • City
  • Sejh
  • City Annex
  • Hills
  • Twain
  • Alexander
  • Wood
  • TSC
 

PowerSchool and Google Issues

We are currently experiencing problems with access to PowerSchool, as well as issues with Google authentication.  These issues appear to be unrelated, and are both originating outside of our network.  

We have a support request in with Grant Wood AEA to restore our access to PowerSchool, and are monitoring the situation developing globally with Google authentication services.