Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tight budget? Travel to Texas! Tout Products!

Did you know that MCPS had entered into a 6 year initiative to purchase 13,000 security cameras? See the press release below. Please note this is not a MCPS Press Release.
Check the Board of Education minutes and look for this procurement! Please post a comment if you can find it!
What happened to the tight budget? Teaching positions cut, but MCPS staff continue to travel? What happened to the freeze on travel? What do students get out of a marketing trip to Texas to endorse a product?
What about Superintendent Weast's statement to the Board of Education:
"All of our technology partners know they are not permitted to use MCPS testimonials in advertising." Superintendent Jerry Weast, January 7, 2009 answer to Question #9.


MCPS implements six-year initiative to upgrade to IP-based system

DALLAS--At TechSec Solutions here on Feb. 25, Bob Hellmuth, director, department of school safety and security for Montgomery County Public Schools, discussed his experience overhauling the video surveillance and visitor management systems at the 16th largest school district in the country.

Hellmuth, who is charged with protecting 138,000 students, 21,000 employees and 200 schools, said that while the district hasn't had a large-scale incident, there have been several smaller incidents that have propelled the district to upgrade its technology. After a gun went off in a student bathroom, Hellmuth said it took security a significant amount of time to review the tape. "When we were looking down a hall full of students, we saw figures on the video but we couldn't identify them. It was worthless for us," he said. Fortunately, officers were able to identify the offending student by the backpack he was carrying.

Currently, Montgomery County is in the second year of its six-year strategic initiative to upgrade its surveillance system from analog to digital. He expects to have more than 3,000 digital cameras installed in the school district by the end of the year and a total of 12,000 to 13,000 cameras by the end of the initiative. But, such an upgrade hasn't been easy. "We've learned lessons over the years and thrown money away because we didn't know what we were doing," he said. The district enlisted the help of a security consultant to design the initiative. "We needed to find somebody who could give us advice and who knew how to do this on a large scale."

Paul Bodell, chief marking officer, iQinVision, whose cameras were used in the installation, said it was critical for organizations to clearly understand what quality of video they need in certain locations within their facilties. For example, when school authorities at MCPS were trying to identify a student in a crowded hallway, Bodell said the school could use what he called "general surveillance" to monitor the movement of students, but then install "forensic-quality" video at the end of hallways which could easily identify faces of students. Mix and matching different video needs can not only improve surveillance quality, but also reduce the cost of the overall installation.

An important factor for making this transition was involving the district's IT department. "Originally they were standoffish - people don't like change - but once we had a meeting and explained what we wanted to do, IT was onboard. It was important that we brought them in right away," he said.

And while the transition to a digital system has largely improved the department's efficiency and investigatative capabilities, it has also reduced costs, Hellmuth said. "More cameras mean less security people. We don't need as many security people and we can employ the people we do have better," he said. "We monitor cameras and look for patterns and if all of a sudden we see a group of people going toward an area, we know there's a problem and we can put someone there quickly."

In addition to improving video surveillance, Hellmuth said it was imperative the district improve its visitor management system as well. "People took it as a joke because nobody was checking," he said. The district replaced its paper log system with an ID scan card system, which not only tracks student and visitor movement, it also captures volunteer work hours making it easier to recognize people who contribute to the school, Hellmuth said. The school will also use the system to track maintenance staff's work to ensure they are staying within their budget.

To learn more about how Montgomery County Public Schools is improving its technology, register for our Webcast on March 19 at www.securitysystemsnews.com/webcast.

Look for more on this story in the April edition of Security Director News.

(Red highlighting added.)

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