School district uses networked cameras to promote security, academic excellence
- By Fredrik Nilsson
- Oct 06, 2009
When Hurricane Katrina nearly obliterated
the city of Pass Christian, Miss., in 2005,
the Mississippi gulf school district faced a
rebuilding project of enormous proportion.
Two of its four schools had been reduced to rubble,
one required extensive restoration, and a fourth
was significantly damaged and is being subsequently
demolished and rebuilt. With new construction underway,
school district administrators decided to take
a proactive stance on school security by incorporating
state-of-art surveillance in all buildings.
Axis Communications' partner CameraWATCH
Technologies, a Jackson, Miss.-based system integrator
with extensive experience in network-based surveillance
systems for schools, helped Pass Christian
School District deploy an array of network cameras at
its new elementary and middle schools, administrative
building and daycare center. CameraWATCH also is
working with the district to implement Genetec's Omnicast
network video surveillance security solution as
well as its Synergis IP access control solution as part
of its comprehensive protective strategy.
School officials can now track visitors entering and
exiting any campus building, as well as identify the license
plates of vehicles in the vicinity of its schools
and district office. Administrators say the network
cameras are serving as effective deterrents to disruptive
behavior on school grounds. The district also is
planning to use the network cameras to help outstanding
teachers mentor their peers through live recordings
of actual classroom activities that have led to high academic
"Though we've never experienced a serious incident
in our schools, we feel our Axis network cameras
will help us be proactive in maintaining a safe
and secure learning environment for our students and
teachers," said Teresa Burton, technology director at
Pass Christian School District.
Devastation Leads to Innovation
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with only one
elementary school left partially standing and a high
school with the entire first level in ruins, classrooms
were relegated to temporary trailers until new schools
could be erected. Despite the less-than-ideal learning
environment, standardized test scores show Pass
Christian leading Mississippi in academic achievement,
ranking in the top 1 percent of 152 school districts
in the Magnolia State.
"One of the reasons we feel our student achievement
is so high is because we've been very proactive
with our curriculum," Burton said. "Since we had to
rebuild our schools anyway, we wanted to be equally
proactive with security."
With no history of violence in the school district,
administrators felt that the presence of state-of-theart
video cameras on campus would serve to remind
students to continue conducting themselves appropriately.
The cameras also would provide officials with a
more efficient way to identify visitors.
"After the hurricane, we had volunteers coming
from all over the country to help us," Burton said.
"We used a lot of staff to keep an eye on visitors to
make sure these people were authorized to be here.
Now we can use the security cameras to see who's
coming and going, and whether vehicles parked in the
area are authorized to be there."
Covering the Hot Spots
According to Burton, network cameras give the district
more control over surveillance because the IPbased
technology can be easily managed and maintained
by the technology staff already responsible
for the school system's network infrastructure. It also
allows administrators to access cameras from their
PCs and retrieve footage of an incident to see how it
started and who was involved.
About 150 network cameras will be deployed inside
and outside of the four schools, the central administrative
office and a daycare center. These include fixed
dome and fixed outside VGA cameras, megapixel-resolution
and the new HDTV cameras, as well as outdoor
PTZ cameras to monitor the temporary classroom trailers.
Almost 100 network cameras are being installed in
the middle school and one of the elementary schools
that shares the campus to cover every classroom and
hallway, the cafeterias, gymnasia, parking lots, athletic
fields and the common courtyard.
Burton said the cameras have shown administrators
which students were carelessly leaving their lunch
trays on the benches outside the high school and identified the likely culprits who scribbled messages on a
"The Axis network cameras have led our students
to think they can't do anything without us seeing
them," she said. "So, the surveillance system is keeping
them on their best behavior."
Daycare Center Security
Grants have helped the district build a separate daycare
center on its Center for Excellence campus,
which also houses its middle school and one of its elementary
schools. Run by educators, the competitive,
self-supporting operation is open to the community.
To provide extra security in the facility, which accepts
babies as young as six weeks old, CameraWATCH installed
the Synergis IP access control solution from
Genetec. This system complements the Axis cameras
deployed throughout the building that are managed
People using a card to access the daycare center
are captured on video and matched with their photo
in the database. If a cancelled card is used or the face
doesn't match the valid card, an alert with a video image
of the individual is sent to the administrative offi
ce for immediate attention.
Because the network cameras are deployed at the
entrances and throughout the building, administrators
can monitor activity inside the daycare center.
"Should the wrong person pick up a child, we're
going to know who it was and what they look like,"
Best Practices in the Classroom
Pass Christian administrators see the cameras in the
classroom as a "best practice" for its instructors to
help other teachers.
"We have teachers at our high school whose students
consistently score at the top of standardized
testing in mandated subject area testing," Burton said.
"So we would like to share their lectures and classroom
activities with other teachers as best practices
in the classroom."
Burton believes the cameras will support the
curriculum development and boost achievement
across the district and, perhaps,
even the state.
Fredrik Nilsson is the VP, Americas, for Axis Communications, Inc. He has more than 15 years of experience with IP video systems and is the author of “Intelligent Network Video: Understanding Modern Video Surveillance Systems” published by CRC Press and now available in its second edition.