Forum One + Pantheon: A Winning Combination for Fairfax County Public Schools

Digital agency Forum One relies on Pantheon’s Upstream capability and Drupal 8 hosting for .edu client Fairfax County Public Schools.

Summary

Forum One is a full-service digital agency that works to provide mission-driven organizations with the design, messaging, and technology they need to meet goals and extend their influence. They rely on Pantheon for the upstream workflow and scalable infrastructure to build and manage complex .edu web sites.

When a complex problem meets a brilliant design team with a sophisticated hosting platform, remarkable things can happen.

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) had the complex problem. FCPS is the 10th largest school district in the U.S., serving nearly 200,000 students in Fairfax County and the city of Fairfax, VA. The district needed to completely overhaul the web presence for their home site and nearly 200 satellite sites for individual schools. The district put out an open RFP for an agency to help solve the problem.

Digital agency Forum One provided the brilliant design and development team. The agency saw an opportunity to move the district to Drupal 8 and manage satellite sites using custom upstreams. An upstream workflow could provide a default template for each new site, and changes to sites could be easily pushed to the individual satellite sites.

Forum One chose Pantheon's hosting and development platform for the infrastructure and upstream workflow that could handle the FCPS project. Leveraging Pantheon’s potential, Forum One put together a winning bid for the RFP and closed the deal. Today, Forum One relies on Pantheon to help administer FCPS’ main site + 55 (and counting) individual school sites.

A big part of our pitch to [Fairfax County Public Schools] was the uniqueness and capabilities of Pantheon’s platform, paired with our expertise in building Drupal 8 sites.

—Kurt Voelker, Vice President, Solutions

FCPS.edu homepage

Before Pantheon: A Static Ecosystem

When they put out the request for proposal, FCPS managed their sites independently of each other, with no easy way to update infrastructure. Even updating content was a one-at-a-time exercise. Worse, their existing platform couldn’t handle mobile-responsive design.

Within each individual school, technology aides were intended to spend most of their time teaching technology in the classroom. But under their former setup, the techs were obligated to spend valuable hours managing school sites.

FCPS wanted a dynamic CMS that would provide flexibility and efficiency. They had a long list of goals for the change:

  • Reduce the time to manage web properties

  • Expand who can contribute to and publish sites to simplify site management

  • Have a fully-responsive platform that can handle traffic spikes

  • Find a balance between letting each school’s site reflect its own personality while still remaining true to the Fairfax County brand

The district had detailed technical requirements intended to help meet these goals. It was a tall order—but Forum One was prepared to fill it.

Choosing Drupal 8: A Fit for the Future

Both FCPS and Forum One worked together to decide which version of Drupal would best fit the project and FCPS ultimately became the agency’s third Drupal 8 project.

“We chose Drupal 8 for its theme efficiency, the ability to rely less on contributing modules, and—most importantly—it’s long term viability,” Voelker says. “We seriously considered Drupal 7 as well, but the discovery process led us to Drupal 8. The new version was ultimately a bit more complicated, but definitely a win in the long run.”

Choosing Pantheon: The Perfect Partner Platform

Forum One is a pillar of the Drupal community. As such, the agency has been familiar with Pantheon since the platform first launched. Forum One had hosted a few sites on the platform, but hadn’t yet explored the platform for a major, Drupal 8 project.

The FCPS project seemed like an ideal fit for Pantheon’s capabilities. As Technology Manager Chaz Chumley noted, “Where we stopped and Pantheon started was a great fit for this type of project. We were able to cleanly identify the workstreams that the project needed.”

Pantheon met the district’s exacting technical requirements and provided the workflow Forum One needed to be the best answer for the proposal. The agency pitched the project as a combination of Forum One’s design capabilities and Pantheon’s infrastructure and workflows. The agency proposed building the sites in Drupal 8 for the efficiency and long-term viability the project required.

“Pantheon was a big benefit in our selling process,” Voelker says. “Pantheon’s approach to scaling multiple sites built off the upstream stood out from the competition.”

Rollout with Pantheon: Migration and Training

After four months of discovery and design, Forum One began building the central site. The team was able to complete the central site and the common upstream in time for FCPS’ launch deadline. Then the team had to set up and roll out the downstream sites for individual schools.

Forum One and Pantheon worked together to roll out the satellite sites in groups of 5-15 at a time. Forum One provided school-level training and support to over 24,000 district employees throughout the rollout.

Life with Pantheon: Efficiency, Flexibility, and Support

Thanks to Forum One’s design expertise and Pantheon’s infrastructure and workflow, FCPS has a new web presence that meets their entire list of requirements. The common upstream serves as a template for the satellite sites, each of which has its own repository. It’s easy to push changes from the upstream repository to the satellite sites.

As Technology Manager Aaron Zinck put it, “With infrastructure, you have more of a chance in getting it wrong than getting it right. For our Drupal 8 project with FCPS, Pantheon’s platform and upstream workflow got it right.”

With Pantheon handling the infrastructure and Forum One on support, FCPS’ new ecosystem exceeds their needs now and provides ample opportunities for growth in the future.

The most powerful version of the Pantheon platform is FREE for educational institutions. Learn about Pantheon for EDU. 

Benefits

  • Upstream infrastructure makes managing 50+ satellite sites easy

  • Drupal 8 development and administration is simple on Pantheon

  • Flexible hosting ensures the sites can handle traffic fluctuations