The Cherokee County School District (CCSD) has grown tremendously over the past 10 years, adding six elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools to its roster. The public schools in Cherokee County are ranked among the top in Georgia, boasting the highest average SAT scores in the state for 2012.
Together, the eighth largest school system in Georgia comprises 47 schools and centers, including 24 elementary schools, seven middle schools, six high schools, several preschool centers, central offices and warehouses. With approximately 40,000 students and 4,500 staff to protect, the district’s public safety department of 10 takes its job very seriously.
Fifteen years ago, Superintendent of the CCSD, Dr. Frank Petruzielo, created the district’s public safety department. At the time, the district had no intrusion detection, unmonitored fire alarms, and a handful of unmonitored, individual cameras purchased by individual schools. Mark Kissel, chief of police for the school district and his team, conducted site surveys and assessments to determine what the district needed to move forward with a comprehensive security plan.
With no state funding for physical security equipment, CCSD needed to roll out its security plan in careful steps, prioritizing its needs and most at-risk areas. Initial security included cameras at the district’s high schools and middle schools. Over the last decade and a half, the district’s security has evolved to access control, alarm systems and surveillance to keep its students, employees and community safe.
“It’s nice to say that you have the bells and whistles in a security system, but the reality has to be based on need as well as what the community is willing to fund,” said Kissel, who spent many years in neighboring Gwinnett County as a police officer before stepping into school law enforcement.
After the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., made headlines, Dr. Petruzielo put together an ad hoc safety and security committee made up of district employees, public safety staff and community members to re-evaluate the district’s security needs and note any room for improvement.
For CCSD, positioning cameras in areas where students convene such as cafeterias, playgrounds, gymnasiums, and other outdoor areas, is a top priority. Surveillance was needed for schools that have a main road or tree-lined area facing entries.
“Our main focus is monitoring the flow of traffic and places where students congregate. Parent and bus access points, ingress and egress, and interior hallways--especially in the high schools--is important. If you are going to have issues, they are most likely to happen in places where groups of students form,” Kissel said.
The safety and security committee determined that the district lacked cameras in 13 elementary schools. Ultimately, the district decided to install new IP cameras and equipment in its high schools and middle schools, while transitioning analog cameras from those facilities over to the district’s elementary schools.
Previously, the school district had been managing its video systems with Intellex, Network Client and Policy Manager. To accomplish its goals, the CCSD needed a hybrid solution that would grow with the organization.
The school district turned to its integrator Tyco Integrated Security, which has been a trusted partner of the CCSD going back 15 years--the same time that Kissel came to his position in the district and the superintendent created the district’s public safety department.
CCSD began its journey by working with Intelligent Marketing, a manufacturer representative for American Dynamics. Intelligent Marketing’s sales engineers were made aware of the challenges to incorporate IP video into the CCTV system at CCSD and recommended that CCSD migrate to IP by initially installing a victor unified management system, VideoEdge hybrid recorders and American Dynamics’ Illustra cameras. So far, more than 30 IP cameras have been installed in the district’s high schools and middle schools, and 13 more schools are in the middle of deployment.