Starting from scratch, school district overcomes analog system disadvantages
- By James Whitcomb
- Nov 01, 2010
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
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 November 2010 issue of Security Today.