Thursday, November 15, 2007

Nobody will fail -- or succeed -- if we set no expectations

THIS is the kind of stuff that I find incredibly frustrating:

Detroit Free Press: Schools step up focus on security (11/13/07)

The article describes the success of video surveillance at Wayne-Westland schools:

"Vandalism inside the Wayne-Westland Community Schools' buildings was down almost 100% and had dropped 90% outside the buildings after officials installed a video surveillance system about seven years ago.

Last month, a burglar was nabbed within 24 hours after police received video images of him. Students think twice about breaking the rules when they know the cameras are around."

It’s been over a year and a half since the topic of adding video surveillance security cameras was first raised in Rochester.
My blog entry from March 13 of this year expressed concerns that the process was going too slow. That was 7 months ago.

This whole fiasco cannot serve as a better example of how boards operate.

The district needed to think about it for a while and decided to form a committee. Then time was spent soliciting volunteers and creating the 22-member committee. Committee meetings went on for a while, until a recommendation was made to spend a few years on a “phased implementation” beginning with card readers (to replace keyed locks), and a “plan” to look at cameras for buildings and buses sometime in the future.

The reason given for the extended timeline was budgetary, despite the fact that the school district has a fund balance (savings account) approaching $30 million dollars.

The board finally approved the first step when it authorized card reader systems earlier this year.

To date there has been no tangible progress on card readers – or anything.

In a recent report to the board, administrators offered no firm plan and no firm deadline on when any of this might happen. My recollection is that they promised that the board might see some plans “in a few months”. They’re still working on their “rubric”, and recommend against doing this in a “piecemeal” fashion.

So, while Rochester is rubric-ing, Wayne-Westland was not only doing, but they were doing so in a way that would not impact their budget: “Half of the money for the upgrade comes from the U.S. Department of Justice's office of community oriented policing services' Secure Our Schools program. It supports video surveillance equipment, metal detectors, locks, lighting and other equipment to deter crime.”

There is no excuse for not trying to do everything possible to protect our children, our valued teachers, and to protect the taxpayer's property. There is no excuse for not doing it in a careful, but timely way.

And while it’s amazing to me that it can take this long, it’s even more amazing to me that this is appears to be viewed as acceptable “standard operating procedure” by the Rochester board.

But I see this as a symptom of a larger problem; one that is prevalent throughout school boards in Michigan. It’s that school boards do not set meaningful expectations, and therefore have an excuse for not holding anyone accountable.


I have pasted below the entire article in case the link doesn’t work:


Schools step up focus on security
More cameras mean increased safety, officials say

November 13, 2007

BY CECIL ANGEL
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

The results spoke for themselves.

Vandalism inside the Wayne-Westland Community Schools' buildings was down almost 100% and had dropped 90% outside the buildings after officials installed a video surveillance system about seven years ago.

Last month, a burglar was nabbed within 24 hours after police received video images of him. Students think twice about breaking the rules when they know the cameras are around.

Those positive results are why district officials are taking security at their campuses to a higher level with a $1,086,900 upgrade that will include a major expansion of the video surveillance system.

When the project is completed next fall, there will be 800 cameras in the district's 26 buildings and its school buses.

School officials and police will be able to monitor every door into every building, plus parking lots, building exteriors, hallways, cafeterias and other public areas.

"We have a calm presence in our buildings," Superintendent Gregory L. Baracy said of the 13,600-student district.

"Our students feel safe and we want to keep it that way."

In an age of terrorist threats and school shootings, police and school officials say they want to continue to keep the district free from killings like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 and last week at a high school in southern Finland.

"I think everybody wants to do their part to make sure our school is not on the news next," Wayne Police Chief John P. Williams said.

Half of the money for the upgrade comes from the U.S. Department of Justice's office of community oriented policing services' Secure Our Schools program. It supports video surveillance equipment, metal detectors, locks, lighting and other equipment to deter crime.

Westland Police Chief James Ridener said the Wayne and Westland police departments each applied for the grants on behalf of the school district. Wayne received $158,225 and Westland $385,225. The district matched the grants to give the million-dollar-plus total.

Baracy said the new system will allow 24-hour monitoring of the campuses from computers in the homes and offices of district officials and from the Wayne and Westland police departments.

It also will allow "real-time observation of events in schools through on-board computers in officers' vehicles," Baracy said.

Other school districts also have video surveillance systems, including South Redford and Farmington. But Wayne-Westland's will have more cameras than many, said Tony Spisak, executive director of operations for the district.

In John Glenn High School alone, there will be 100 cameras in the 385,000-square-foot building, he said.

Students "know they're all over the place," Spisak said.

Student views

At John Glenn, Victoria Johnson, 18, a senior, said security cameras are common in the world today; she sees them in her Detroit neighborhood atop street lamps. Because her school doesn't have metal detectors, she appreciates the cameras.

"I feel more comfortable," she said.

Another senior, Adam Sonak, 17, of Westland, said, "I don't really mind it. I like having them there. You feel more protected."

Williams, the Wayne police chief, said, "It's just an extra set of eyes for the officers and school staff. It's a deterrent."

3 comments:

Josh said...

While I see the benefits of cameras in schools, I'm not sure it would deter a Columbine style shooting. Weren't there security cameras in Columbine High? I recall seeing some in school footage from that tragedy.

Mike Reno said...

Cameras might discourage, but they won't completely prevent tragedies like Columbine.

They don't prevent robberies in gas stations or banks.

If someone with strong criminal intent is determined, there is little that anyone can do to dissuade the attempt.

But I think the police will tell you that they appreciate having "eyes on the inside" during a crisis situation.

And the video recordings are valuable to help document an event.

For example, in a recent debacle in Howell, cameras on the bus helped to insure that justice was served. There was an alleged sexual assault that occurred on an elementary school bus, and the initial response reportedly offered by the district was that there was no conclusive proof, or that it was bullying and not sexual assault.. However, the police and prosecutor looked at the video recording and had a very different opinion. Without that video, and without the police, one wonders whether the parents of the young boy that was assaulted would've been left frustrated with nowhere to turn.

But the point of this post was not to address security, but was instead to provide a glimpse of how school boards operate. At a minimum the board approved a card reader system, and nothing has been done. The board has not voted on video surveillance, so I can't say that they "officially" support the idea, but the positive leanings seemed apparent to me. At a minimum they asked that a plan be put together. However, they did so without asking for it to be done in a reasonable timeframe... or ANY timeframe for that matter. And after months of foot-dragging, and a follow-up presentation, the board has still not set any clear expectations. If the board wants the added security, then they should set an expectation to make it happen in a prudent, timely manner. Otherwise, the board should state that it's not interested in it and move on. Letting it drag on for a year and a half may be typical, but it's not reasonable or responsible.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, the benefits of forced diversity. Although I agree with cameras in schools and on the buses, this only deters some students, it doesn't prevent my children from being harmed. I have noticed, first hand, the bus drivers and teachers allow the black students to say and get away with much more than the white students. The double-standard of racism runs rampant in Wayne-Westland school district.