How to Integrate School Security and Communication Technology

security technology
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School safety, security, and communication has never been more critically important, with most school districts spending large portions of budgets to invest in technology designed to ensure that people and property are well-protected and well-connected. Consequently, the planning process for any technology project needs to visualize and anticipate how the new solution will integrate with existing systems.

Facility surveillance camera systems, physical security controls, communication platforms, rapid notification solutions, visitor management, and emergency alert systems are all integral parts of the Greeneville City School (GCS) District security fabric. Careful planning and thoughtful integration must be strategic and deliberate to be effective and efficient.

How We Have Integrated Security Systems 

GCS currently has more than 300 security cameras strategically placed in the six physical school buildings of the district. In addition, the district has an online school and partners with a neighboring district to run a unique online career and technical school. 

When looking for a surveillance camera solution, the district invested in the Avigilon system, which is interoperable with the physical security system, so it has eliminated the need for countless physical keys that can be difficult to manage and hard to track. Each district employee currently utilizes an ID badge to manage physical access to buildings and classrooms. 

When a need arose to facilitate rapid emergency messages to both internal and external stakeholders including local emergency officials, interoperability was a key consideration. Ultimately, the solution identified and adopted by GCS (the Rave Panic Button) was compatible with other key systems, such as the Audio Enhancement EPIC classroom and school communication platform, which itself replaced aging intercom and bell systems throughout the district. 

The ability to quickly communicate with parents, guardians, and employees is key to the overall success of GCS. Thanks to proper planning and platform integration, the district can seamlessly share important information with ease and speed via the PowerSchool student management system and the SwiftK12 rapid communication system.

Best Practices for Vetting Products for Interoperability 

When faced with the daunting task of choosing the right solution for any school safety or security issue, the following should be considered: 

  • After identifying the best-in-class solutions, seek out practitioners who made the decision to purchase each product and ask them why they chose it and what surprises they faced during implementation. 
  • Ask each vendor/solution provider being considered to complete a functionality matrix developed by your team. This will help the team compare and contrast solutions. This practice will also help you identify any missing functionality that might hinder the overall plan for integration and project success.  
  • Look for open architecture platforms when available. One example would be to determine if existing cameras can be incorporated into a new video surveillance system or if purchasing all new cameras would be required. This could be a substantial factor in the total project cost.  
  • Always make efforts to determine the total cost of ownership. Oftentimes, a solution can present as most cost-effective until the long-term costs are factored into the total equation. Subsequent licensure costs, upgrade protection, and other sometimes unidentified costs can quickly add up and exceed the project budget. 
  • When developing the procurement documents including the request for proposal, make sure to leave vendors some autonomy to specify technologies that might not have even existed during the development of the project scope. After all, the best thing about technology is that it changes daily. Additionally, the worst thing about technology is that it changes daily. Make sure your project documents and plans are also scalable and flexible to ensure the best solution can be identified, secured, and deployed. 

An effective system is one whose new and innovative solutions merge seamlessly with existing systems to provide a solution that is greater than the sum of its parts. This practice will serve to build and maintain the confidence of taxpayers and other external stakeholders as they entrust the school district with the community’s most precious resources – children! 

Beverly Miller was the first IT Director for the Greeneville City Schools in Greeneville, Tennessee, a role she held for 17 years before being promoted to Assistant Director of Schools, a position she has now held for 12 years. She is passionate about providing best-in-class tools backed up by extraordinary customer service and support to the people she serves and leads.