Illinois School District Gains Visibility and Control to Protect Students and Staff in Microsoft 365
Dave Termunde, Chief Technology Officer at Arbor Park School District, is one of those leaders who is clearly passionate about the impact of technology on students’ long-term success. That is the main reason why he’s an advocate for using Microsoft in the classroom.
“Google was never introduced here and I see that as a good thing,” explains Termunde. “Learning on Microsoft technology future-proofs our students for what their world is going to be like when they go to college and into the business world. Our students are much better prepared when they go to college knowing how to use tools like Outlook, Word, and Excel.”
Located in Oak Forest, Illinois, Arbor Park School District serves about 1,350 students and 150 faculty and staff. In his role as CTO, Termunde is responsible for an IT staff of four. He’s also responsible for the planning and execution of the district’s overall technology and security vision.
“Today, everything in the district touches technology. It puts a lot of responsibility on tech directors,” Termunde says. “You have to have a vision for it. You can’t just buy technology and hope for the best. It’s critical to plan, budget, and put out fires fast. I also spend time in the classroom to watch how it works.”
The district moved from on-prem Microsoft to cloud-based 365 in 2018. Termunde enjoys the superior customer support provided by Microsoft, compared to Google. He also finds that the Windows devices they purchase, though a little more expensive than Chromebooks, are of much better quality.
“Cloud Monitor is like having an additional employee on my team. It’s constantly monitoring and doing tasks that we don’t have time to sit there and do all day. It replaces those labor hours and then alerts us when there’s something we need to take a closer look at. I like that I don’t have to work in it every day and it doesn’t take up a lot of my time. It does a lot of the work for me and it just lets me know when it needs me.”
— David Termunde, Chief Technology Officer
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed down schools, the Arbor Park School District’s use of Microsoft Teams became a huge benefit.
“We already knew how to use Teams. And, as luck would have it, we’d just done updated training on how to use it in October. So, that really paid off,” Termunde recalls. “We didn’t have any major problems running remote classrooms in Teams like many other schools did with Zoom and Google Meet.”
While Termunde is an advocate for Microsoft 365 for K-12 schools, he experienced some limitations when it came to data security controls and student safety monitoring in its native admin center tools. He has access to A3-level Microsoft admin controls, but he found accessing important data time-consuming.
“Trying to get the data you need out of the native Microsoft admin center is very time-consuming,” says Termunde. “In Cloud Monitor, it takes less than two minutes. That time and effort savings alone results in a significant return on investment for us.”
Using Exchange and native Microsoft controls, it was also difficult to find information that might be located in student and staff emails, OneDrives, and Teams chats. Further, they weren’t getting alerts to what was going on in these applications. Termunde and his team felt like they were constantly needing to react to a known issue, rather than getting a proactive alert that something problematic was happening.
Arbor Park uses a multi-layered cybersecurity approach that layers several processes and tools on top of one another to cover the various areas of content filtering, data protection, and network security required for today’s modern schools.
When Termunde began researching different solutions for Microsoft 365 malware and data protection he came across Cloud Monitor, a cloud-layer cybersecurity and student safety monitoring platform. Cloud Monitor is a cloud-native security platform that uses APIs to detect cybersecurity and student safety risks in district Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace environments. This means that the platform doesn’t have to collect or store any data outside of the district domain. Nor does it use an appliance, gateway, or proxy.
The most important factor in any technology purchase decision is that the platform has to simply work. Termunde and his team tried other technologies that ended up being clunky, annoying, and had terrible support. He finds that a lot of cybersecurity tools are not built by people who understand the end-users. But that Cloud Monitor is different.
“From the outset, I liked that Cloud Monitor supports Microsoft 365. I also liked that the company and the platform are geared toward K-12. They understand that K-12 is unique and we weren’t treated like we were a business,” he recalls.
Once he started his 30-day free audit, he was further delighted by the platform layout and functionality.
“With Cloud Monitor, we were able to detect some issues that concerned us from a student safety perspective. We realized what a benefit it is to have some of these school-specialized AI algorithms that help us create a safe space for our students to learn and interact online. With Teams and Cloud Monitor, we can provide that safe space because we can monitor it. For some students, this was their only way to communicate with their friends during the lockdown, and I think that made a difference in their social and emotional health.”
— David Termunde, Chief Technology Officer
“I like that Cloud Monitor is proactive, compared to Microsoft’s native tools that are more reactive. We used to have to investigate an issue that we already knew about, and then try to find information related to the problem. Now, Cloud Monitor gives us a heads-up that something is happening so we can get ahead of it before it’s a problem.”
“I can be picky—I can usually find something to complain about with vendors,” Termunde half-jokes. “With Cloud Monitor, the quoting and onboarding process was easy and the training was good. The staff didn’t talk down to us just because we’re not security experts. They understand the school customer, how we work, and what we need to monitor for.”
Termunde describes activating Cloud Monitor in Arbor Park’s Microsoft 365 domain as a reality check.
“The number of phishing emails that get through our other filters was a reality check. We simply couldn’t keep up with them in Microsoft, but Cloud Monitor gives us that information and makes it fast and easy to follow-up on.”
While Termunde initially purchased Cloud Monitor mainly for the cybersecurity aspects of the platform, he has since also come to appreciate the student safety monitoring and visibility it provides.
“With Cloud Monitor, we were able to detect some issues that concerned us from a student safety perspective. We realized what a benefit it is to have some of these school-specialized AI algorithms that help us create a safe space for our students to learn and interact online,” says Termunde. “With Teams and Cloud Monitor, we can provide that safe space because we can monitor it. For some students, this was their only way to communicate with their friends during the lockdown, and I think that made a difference in their social and emotional health.”
Parents are also more comfortable knowing that school staff is able to monitor for safety risks on students’ devices—without unnecessarily collecting information in a 3rd party vendor’s database.
To Termunde, ManagedMethods is a company that is easy to work with. During a time when he has vendors that are fighting him over Student Online Personal Protection Act (SOPPA) compliance and others raising prices to take advantage of federal relief funding, ManagedMethods has continued to invest in creating great customer experiences.
“ManagedMethods treats us like we’re an important customer. You can tell that the team is passionate about the fact that the tools they’re selling could save someone’s life.” Termunde explains. “They’re also great about listening to customer feedback. For example, we’ve given them feedback on features that we really needed in Teams. Their support team asked me questions, got an engineer on the call, and then they acted on it and rolled it out.”
Cloud Monitor provides Termunde and his team with the visibility and control they need to keep data secure and students safe in Microsoft 365. The platform is easy for them to use and it does not take a lot of time to find the information they need or remediate a problem.
“Cloud Monitor is like having an additional employee on my team. It’s constantly monitoring and doing tasks that we don’t have time to sit there and do all day. It replaces those labor hours and then alerts us when there’s something we need to take a closer look at,” says Termunde. “I like that I don’t have to work in it every day and it doesn’t take up a lot of my time. It does a lot of the work for me and it just lets me know when it needs me.”