Geographically Connected

Starting from scratch, school district overcomes analog system disadvantages

Nestled within the peaks and valleys of the southernmost area of the Appalachian Mountain Range, the Jackson County School District encompasses 150 miles in northeastern Alabama.

The beautiful, yet diverse, terrain presented obstacles to school administrators in how best to monitor events at the district’s 18 campuses, which include 7,000 students and three administrative buildings.

“We saw a drastic need for increased safety efforts at our campuses as we grew, and our administration determined that the best way to meet our standards was to develop a comprehensive plan that included the uniform deployment of video surveillance at all our campuses,” said Dennis Morris, Jackson Country Schools network administrator.

Without an existing video surveillance solution, school officials had to start from scratch.

“We really had no system to speak of when we entered the video surveillance market,” Morris said. “We had three schools that had some analog, black-and-white cameras, and that was it.”

The district knew that their goal of districtwide, uniform surveillance would be an investment. But they made an agreement with the principals that the district would fund the initial setup for each campus through capital outlay.

The principals agreed to fund additional cameras and equipment as they saw an increased need.

A Strong Partnership
To get started, district officials contacted Information Transport Solutions Inc. of Wetumpka, Ala., to help them develop and implement a plan; and as an integrating partner with Video Insight, ITS knew the ropes. ITS does business with about 80 percent of the K-12 school market in the state of Alabama and was confident they knew the best solution.

Jackson County Schools is an epicenter of technology—the result of 13 years of working with ITS, Morris said. With industrial fiber input to all 18 schools, 1 GB of bandwidth, Cisco PoE switches and fiber-optic cabling to every classroom, Jackson County has developed the technological infrastructure to support the best method of an IP video surveillance solution.

“As trusted advisers, we encourage a unified network where everything is managed centrally,” Morris said. “We knew Video Insight offered an IP video surveillance solution that would allow maximum usage of the infrastructure that we helped Jackson County put in place.”

ITS Account Manager Tonya Phillips agreed, saying that the software makes all the difference because it is tailored to fit the needs of the K-12 setting and is user friendly.

Jackson County technology staff also installed Dell servers that operate the Video Insight IP software at each of their 21 buildings. They also have installed nearly 450 Axis cameras districtwide, with a plan to add more each month.

Cameras as Deterrent
Morris said they have installed the cameras in critical safety locations, as well as areas that need to be monitored for potential theft, including hallways, lunch rooms, the library, transportation facility fuel pumps, maintenance facility parts storage, the agricultural barn and near garbage dumpsters.

Administrators and safety officers at each location are given the rights to monitor their own campus from a monitoring station or remotely from the Web. Morris said that many of the principles have chosen to install a separate computer with large LCD monitors, particularly at the high school where they may have more than 32 cameras to monitor. Morris and the superintendent have access to monitor all buildings district-wide.

From the installation of security equipment, school officials have noticed a significant decrease in discipline issues in common areas, such as water fountains, lunch rooms and parking lots.

“It’s amazing, when they know they are being watched,” Morris said. “This is truly a deterrent. There is just an overall feeling of security with the video solution we have in place.”

There also is less theft of equipment and greater chance of prosecution.

“We had the Bridgeport, Ala., Police Department call us very early one morning before dawn,” Morris said. “They had picked up a guy who was driving a John Deere Gator, hauling computers and other equipment, all of which had Jackson County School IDs. “We pulled up the recordings from that night and in crystal-clear color video, there this guy was in our agriculture barn stealing from us. By 8 a.m., the guy had been arrested, and we had our equipment back and our students were putting it back on the shelves.”

Morris said the video management software made all the difference.

“A lot of places have cameras and eyes in the sky, but that’s totally different from what we have,” he said. “We’re very proud of our security system.”

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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