A pine forest

The “Maine” Connection: How a rural P-8 district connected students to new opportunities

“If you envision a pine forest with 10 buildings in the middle of it, you can picture our school,” explained Maine Consolidated School District’s Superintendent, Dr. Mark Williams.

Maine Consolidated is a rural, isolated Arizona P-8 school district that serves 140 students located in 10 buildings. The students at Maine Consolidated had tablets and laptops to access digital literacy programs like Study Island and Kahn Academy but–because of an unreliable Internet connection and extremely low bandwidth–couldn’t use them.

Maine’s students also had access to enrichment or remediation classes through a web-based distance learning program with Mesa Unified School District, an urban Arizona District outside of Phoenix, but it was difficult to stream more than a couple of videos at one time, and their Internet access during AZMerit state testing week was spotty.

Dr. Williams knew that faster Internet was attainable – a fiber circuit existed just ¼ mile away – but the question was how Maine Consolidated could cover the cost of the construction to build it to their campus.

A New Strategy

As he was searching for ways to use state match funding to affordably upgrade his district’s Internet access, Dr. Williams consulted with State E-rate Coordinator Milan Eaton and sought the support of the Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative. Through these contacts, he was connected with EducationSuperHighway and used our resources to form a new strategy to get the most bandwidth possible for Maine’s budget. He took these three main steps to improve his district’s connectivity:

1. Revised E-rate RFP Strategy

  • To maximize the quality of the district’s RFP bids, Dr. Williams leveraged the experience and contacts EducationSuperHighway has within the service provider community.

2. Leveraged Price Comparisons

  • He also used Compare & Connect K-12 to view how Maine’s current pricing compared to that of similarly sized school districts nearby.

3. Maximized State and Federal Funds

  • Dr. Williams applied for Arizona’s State Match program to ensure that he could get the most bandwidth possible at the most affordable cost possible.

Sustainable success

As a result of Dr. William’s revised strategy, the bid Maine Consolidated received is poised to enable a dramatic increase in bandwidth for all the district’s schools. While the district is awaiting final approval for their upgrade, they look forward to the sustainable solution that will enable students access to their current digital learning technologies, and many more to come. The district also secured ongoing support to make their monthly Internet payments more affordable.

Read more about how districts can have a more successful bidding process here.