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Creating a safer, more secure school environment at Huntley Community School District 158, using Google Workspace for Education Plus


“For a long time, Huntley has been a destination district,” explains Chris Budzynski, Huntley School District 158’s Chief Technology Officer. That’s because parents moving into the district know that Huntley leaders are always looking toward the future when considering new teaching strategies and tools that benefit students. For example, the district first adopted Google Workspace for Education in 2013, and for many years had one of the state’s largest 1:1 deployment of Chromebooks across all K-12 grades.

“We let students take their Chromebooks home—even over the summer,” Budzynski says. “If we want students to be lifelong, curious learners, then they have to have the tools on hand to satisfy that curiosity.”

But with nearly 10,000 devices and accompanying Google Workspace for Education accounts to manage, Budzynski and his CTO team of nine people worried about monitoring devices and app activity in a way that would keep the school community safe and secure.

“One of our main frustrations was dealing with a patchwork of third-party auditing tools to help us stay on top of security,” says Budzynski. Those tools were slow in delivering alerts about security issues, such as inappropriate content being shared in places like Google Drive or Google Docs. It could take as long as 24 hours for alerts to pop up in these third-party tools.

“That’s too long to wait,” Budzynski says. To take action on the discovery of inappropriate content—like something as simple as a student inadvertently sending sensitive internal document to contacts outside the district—Budzynski needs to move quickly, perhaps by reaching out to students or changing a file’s access permissions. But the 24-hour delay hindered his ability to act with speed.

Budzynski’s team also faced challenges managing such a large fleet of devices. “It’s a huge task to keep up with updates and changes to all the systems, each of which has hundreds of settings,” says Budzynski. “Sometimes we don’t always keep up as quickly as we’d like.”

“If we are made aware of an email security incident, we can now see the data in real time and remediate the situation in a matter of minutes with the investigation tool, instead of having to wait until the next day for the data to sync.”

Chris Budzynski, Chief Technology Officer, Huntley Community School District 158


Budzynski’s third-party auditing tools were costly, but weren’t yielding the speed he needed to monitor and react to security issues impacting Google Workspace for Education or Chromebooks. From his perspective, transferring that expense to Google Workspace for Education Plus, which offers premium features like security dashboards, access controls, and more video meeting tools, was a practical decision.

“I was one of those people who said, if I haven’t been paying for Google Workspace for Education all along, why pay for Google Workspace for Education Plus now?” says Budzynski. “But I realized that we were already paying for extra security products, and ones that weren’t working very well.” Huntley’s district administrators agreed that trading the cost of the auditing tools for Google Workspace for Education Plus made good sense.

“We cut out our third-party auditinGoogle Workspace the minute we turned on Plus,” says Budzynski.


Keeping students safe

Monitoring online activity is a big responsibility for the Huntley IT team, especially as students work on their Chromebooks and within Google Workspace independently. “Their safety has to be our primary goal,” Budzynski says.

The security dashboard in Google Workspace for Education Plus is Budzynski’s first stop for monitoring the safety of the district’s Google Workspace operations. “It gives us a whole new level of insight that we didn’t have before—whether it’s a spike in authentications or a potential outside threat. I look at it several times a day—and now, I can access flagged data in minutes rather than waiting a whole day.”'

The fast reaction time helps keeps students—and indeed, the whole Huntley community—safer. “If we get an alert, we can’t wait 4 hours to address it,” says Budzynski. “Let’s say we had a student send an email with a link containing names and addresses of classmates, and we wanted to pull that email back. To do that in other tools could take a day.”

“We don’t have those delays anymore,” he continues. “It’s been a huge help with the investigative side of my job.”

Improving efficiency for the IT team

Google Workspace for Education Plus has allowed Huntley to eliminate systems for auditing and monitoring security of Google Workspace and Chromebooks. “That is worth real dollars,” Budzynski says—and not just in terms of cost, but also in saved time. '

“We don’t have to spend time babysitting the auditing system,” says Budzynski. In addition, Google Workspace for Education Plus gives Budzynski and his IT colleagues more visibility, control, and flexibility than the old tools, so they can spend less time studying security alerts and more time on “big picture” IT projects.

The Plus edition’s advanced mobile device management helps Budzynski stay on top of inventory, as well as set preferences and monitor updates for Huntley’s large Chromebook fleet. “[The dashboard] gives a breakdown of the policy settings I’ve created and compares them to recommended best practices. Then I can adjust policies without going line by line through every single setting—or by having a consultant do a security audit.” With customizable mobile device management, IT admins can automate tasks like enrolling new devices at the start of a school year—as well as wipe account information from devices.

Encouraging video meetings that save time and add flexibility

“Before getting the Plus edition, we didn't make use of a video platform,” says Budzynski. “But now that we can record and save meetings using Google Meet, it makes a big difference.” Huntley teachers and administrators can watch recorded meetings to catch up on what they’ve missed.

Budzynski hopes that as more teachers and admins discover how easy it is to use Meet for meetings, they’ll get creative with the tool—especially when the weather gets in the way of classes.

“This past winter, we had two days that were 50 below zero,” Budzynski says. “We closed school. And for the first time ever, our superintendent authorized remote work.” There’s a state plan underway to turn weather closure days into e-learning days.

“I could see teachers running their whole class from Google Workspace for Education Plus,” Budzynski says. “It could really help us break down the walls so we don’t have to limit learning to the buildings.”

At a Glance

What they wanted

  • Reduce the time needed to receive critical security alerts and take action
  • Consolidate multiple auditing tools into one system
  • Manage devices efficiently

What they did

  • Adopted Google Workspace for Education Plus
  • Eliminated third-party auditing tools

What they accomplished

  • Reduced time to respond to alerts from 24 hours to just minutes
  • Added a single dashboard for monitoring Google Workspace security
  • Improved review of policies

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