THE MAGAZINE

School Seeks Uniformity

By Ann Longmore-Etheridge

Florida’s Escambia County School District didn’t need uniforms, but was in search of uniformity. The problem was not with the pupils, but with the schools’ CCTV systems, which had been put in piecemeal by principals or PTAs and not security technology experts. To solve the districtwide problem, IT stepped in, became educated in CCTV technology, and crafted a solution.

Escambia is the farthest western county in Florida, located at the tip of the state’s “panhandle” and sharing a border with Alabama. It includes the city of Pensacola metropolitan area. The school district includes 35 elementary schools, nine middle schools, and seven high schools, as well as specialized centers and administrative buildings and facilities.

“We have, roughly, 50,000 students,” says Brian Johnson, network systems analyst for the school district. There are about 6,000 employees. “We’re one of the largest employers in the county.”

In recalling the state of CCTV affairs, Johnson states, “We had at least 10 different systems by about eight different manufacturers. All of them had been purchased by the schools using internal funds such as PTA dollars, so there was no oversight from the district, and no one took ownership of the systems.”

Some schools had purchased consumer-grade components that were not meant to be housed in unventilated equipment closets. Others installed indoor cameras outside. And when they put the indoor cameras where they belonged, they were often installed improperly. For example, he says, “I’ve got pictures of cameras with balls of cable hanging off of them that anyone could just grab and yank down.”

Some of the schools had also signed expensive maintenance contracts that did not include many of the issues that commonly crop up with CCTV systems. As a result, the schools began to call IT for help. “They’d say: ‘Our system is down, and we don’t know how to operate it.’ It looks like a computer, so it has to be an IT issue,” he recalls.

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