The Mount Union Area School District (MUASD) covers a rural, small-town area of Central Pennsylvania, and has a population of around 1,500 students spread over its junior/senior high school and three elementary schools. Leonard Snyder, who is MUASD's Director of Information Technology, says the district "had cameras originally, but they were all just black-and-white going back to a [recorder] using VCR tapes, so it was just a no-brainer to upgrade the system. With all the school shootings that were going on in the country, there was a big push for security in K-12 education."
"How I found out about App-Techs was when I went to the 'Tech Talk Live' conference at IU 13 in Lancaster [in May of 2014]," he states. "I attended a presentation by one of their salespersons, and I found it interesting. Basically the selling point to me was that we want to integrate our door system with our camera system – a future project being to do the doors, and then integrate that into the security system as well." The district began working with us to install our EasyNVR servers and additional, newer cameras in September of that same year. Solutions
App-Techs technician Ryan John shares, "They have a series of smaller [elementary] schools with cameras and their own individual, isolated servers – and then at their [junior/senior] high school they have ... two servers" which are running Milestone Professional VMS software. Sales associate Jenny Romanosky notes that our company does the camera installation for them, whereas some of our school clients may install cameras themselves. Running cable at MUASD was done by a sub-contractor, "Up until the high school, which we did on our own," clarifies project manager Andrew Haefner. "We thought [the sub-contractors] were high" price-wise. App-Techs is always committed to finding the most cost-effective solutions for our clients.
As another example of this core value, John shares, "The high school had a whole bunch of older, lower-resolution, Bosch IP cameras, before we got there, and they were online and recording to a DVR. [MUASD] provided us with all the IP's of the cameras, they were all compatible with Milestone ... so we said we could just [install] our server, connect it to them, and then you can throw that old Bosch DVR out – and that's essentially what happened."
As a sort of "phase II," App-Techs later installed additional, higher-resolution cameras on the system. These cameras were mostly, Romanosky notes, "Hikvision and Panasonic. They have some Areconts, some of the 270-degree [lenses], and some of the 180's." There are two Mobotix 180-degree cameras as well. Company co-founder Dan Fritsch says that most are installed in "the interior of the schools, and then a few cameras are attached to the exterior of the building," so they all are hard-wired and no wireless networking is involved.
MUASD makes use of Milestone's mobile capabilities to monitor video feeds from their cameras. Haefner shares, "One other thing that's interesting about them, they're actually using ... the Milestone Web Client and not the Smart Client. They have Macs, and you can't use the Smart Client on a Mac, you have to use the Web Client." In this way, App-Techs meets the majority of their video monitoring needs without requiring additional computers or a different operating system. John notes, "I do know the front receptionists have [PC] Smart Clients, with views we've specialized for their daily life, like they need to see this door because they're buzzing people in ... and then Leonard and Johnny [Himes, another member of the district's IT staff] both use full Smart Clients – so, the receptionists and then the two IT guys" have Windows-based Smart Clients.
Fritsch makes a point of stating, "We like those guys. They've been very nice." He and technician Derek Lindstrom also express appreciation for the cooperation of Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11, which provides the VPN by which App-Techs connects to MUASD's Milestone system.
Leonard Snyder says, "We have more visibility [now] ... because the systems we had in place before were black-and-white, and you really couldn't tell who was coming in and out of this place." He expresses that the system has been useful not only in terms of keeping students safe, but also in helping principals view incidents they might not have otherwise.
The latter benefit, however, also presents a challenge for Snyder since it has raised expectations that cameras will be in place everywhere infractions may occur. It can be difficult to predict, and to cover all possible areas, while staying within budgetary constraints. This is especially true at the high school level, where students may be more inventive about avoiding video detection – and where older cameras were already in place, with more simply being added over the years, but now he says some of the older ones are not adequate in terms of resolution and quality.
Regardless, he states, "It's been helpful, there's no doubt about it. It seems like I'm always uploading videos for the [police], for their records and whatnot." MUASD is able to provide video as corroborating evidence for such infractions as student drug use or fights, although fortunately he reports that vandalism has not been a big issue at their schools.
An unexpected benefit of video recordings has been in the area of workman's compensation. "Somebody says they slipped and fell, hurt their back, and must be out for a few weeks," explains Snyder, "We can ... go back to the video, if they were in a location that had a camera, and verify what actually happened when they hurt themselves. I know I've used that video for a couple cases now, and given it to the insurance company."
He goes on to share that the cameras aimed towards parking lots have been beneficial. "We had incidents where there was a 'he said, she said' [situation] ... 'He ran into me,' and 'No, you ran into me and the car.' I've had insurance companies call me, [asking] if I had the video of the incident" to help determine what really occurred.
Snyder reports a good working relationship with App-Techs, saying, "I have no complaints." He has also been satisfied with the customer service and technical support he has received. "Every time we've had a problem, we've called and it's been taken care of in a timely fashion." In terms of training, he says it has been a "train the trainer" type of situation, where App-Techs has "trained the tech staff, and then we just train the users," who are largely principals and building secretaries.
He looks forward to working with us on two goals for the future. First, as mentioned earlier, is the schools' access control system. Currently the door system gathers some data at the elementary schools, but at the junior/senior high school, he can only program key cards with no tracking at all. The objective will be to move to a more integrated system which gives him much more data about who came and went through which entrance at what time.
Snyder says he has developed a second area of potential interest, after attending another App-Techs presentation at this year's 'Tech Talk Live' conference, just a few weeks ago. He was intrigued by the possibilities for managing buildings' electrical systems, with such features as the ability to turn lights off and on automatically. We eagerly anticipate exploring these new ventures with MUASD.
To learn more about how App-Techs can help your organization, call (717) 735-0848, contact our sales department, or visit our website.