Ray Wilson, Security Coordinator and Police Liaison for the North Penn School District, shares that the district previously had an "old, antiquated, analog system ... so when I got there, one of my first things was to upgrade the video system. Once I got the district on board with it, we started looking at different companies. I had been a police officer, and Lansdale Borough was using your system. I got to talking with some of the guys ... and they liked your company." While the district needed to first pursue a bid process, Wilson says he developed an interest in App-Techs because "other companies we were dealing with were bigger companies, and I thought we'd get lost in the shuffle there. After I heard how Lansdale was doing with you guys, and I did some more checking around, we ended up doing a proposal [with App-Techs] for the high school and it went through, and that was that. We've been with you guys ever since."
Ranking as the seventh largest school district in Pennsylvania, Wilson states that North Penn has 3,000 students at the high school and 15,000 total in the district. There are eighteen schools, an administration building and a support services building, with cameras in virtually all of them. "I started out with the high school, which is the biggest one," Wilson says, "I had about thirty cameras there, and we're up to almost eighty now. My next project was the three middle schools. They're pretty big, too. One middle school has about 1,500 kids, the other two have about 800 or 900 each. Now I'm starting on the elementary schools. Jenny [Romanosky, sales coordinator for App-Techs] just did a proposal for the administration building and six of our elementary schools. Every time that we've done a renovation at a school, except Hatfield, you guys have been in right from the beginning." Solutions
The team at App-Techs team affirms our positive working relationship with Ray Wilson over the past few years, as well as Kevin Eck, who works in IT at North Penn. Since App-Techs technician Chase Boian built North Penn's first EasyNVR server in mid-2013, we have equipped the district with six servers, as well as cameras, Milestone software, monitors and workstations for security desks at each school. Cameras are drop-shipped, and North Penn has an in-house staff to run cables and install cameras, although we go on-site to install servers. Project manager Andrew Haefner shares, "They will even add the cameras to Milestone, but then we will 'tweak' the system, making the proper adjustments, and so forth." We provide the district with 24/7/365 support and if there are ever have any problems, our technicians troubleshoot remotely. If something must be done on-site, Haefner says, "We work in partnership with North Penn to resolve those sorts of issues as well."
"Each building that we're in has a single-server solution," states technician Ryan John, "with the exception of the high school, which has multiple servers to share the load. They're each on Milestone Enterprise," meaning that instead of a central server managing all the recording servers around the district, "Each server is its own entity that is configured separately. We connect to that building and manage it." The high school is such a massive building, with so many cameras on a given performance workstation that John adds, "Even more than normal, it's super-essential that you're using dual-streaming because of the number of cameras in use simultaneously."
North Penn's system is completely hard-wired with a mix of Panasonic and Hikvision cameras — some indoor, some outdoor, all digital. Technician Derek Lindstrom notes, "They've got the most up-to-date buildings." The number of cameras has grown from 30 or less initially to a total of 269 presently. Anyone who needs to can be set up to access the system. Each server is a domain member, and each is Active Directory linked through staff members' district login, which gets them into Milestone. This SSO (Single Sign-On) allows users to log in once, and the security system automatically receives their credentials.
Wilson chuckles and says, "This camera stuff has kept me busy. I'm pretty much the administrator of the whole system. I go around and load Milestone on people's laptops. I'm not an IT person, but I'm really learning a lot. It's been good." He adds, "Milestone is just the best in its ease of use. I was so frustrated before Milestone. A [police officer] would come in and say, 'Hey, can I have a video of that?' and it was almost impossible to make a copy on our old system. Now, it's just like, boom boom boom, in two minutes! Most of the time, while the police are at our school, I'll say, 'Here's the disc,' and they're like, 'Whoa, that's great!'
Wilson continues, "I really like how we can go back and look at things. Every single day at the high school, we're solving a crime, or being able to see student disturbances as they happen. Sometimes a parent will come in and say, 'My son didn't do that,' and we say, 'Here you go!' The quality is unbelievable, too." He shares, "If we have a disturbance back in one of our pods and we don't have a [higher-quality camera there], what we'll do is follow the person in reverse, and get him in another area where we have some better cameras. Most of my security guys know the kids, but if we get a kid we don't know, I'll get a good shot of him, send an email out to all the staff, and say, 'Can you identify this person?' And it's crazy, it's kind of almost a joke now, sometimes within ten to fifteen seconds a teacher will come back and say, 'That's Johnny Jones.' It's amazing."
Most student disturbances happen in the cafeterias in North Penn's schools, where there are high-resolution cameras. "We've had some instances with people reaching down in somebody's backpack and stealing a phone, and we've got it right on camera. We've had people money out of their pockets in the cafeteria, and we can zoom right in and see who picked the money up, or who dropped the money." Wilson proceeds with another story. "A student stole a phone in the locker room, where we have cameras. He came out and went to another area, and he was looking at the phone. We zoomed in on it, and we could almost see what he was doing on the phone, it was that clear. We knew it was the stolen phone ... incredible!
"I could give you a thousand stories [about] the success we've had with these cameras. The police like it, the courts like it, the judges like it. The school board loves it. The administration loves this camera system. Most of the principals have it on their laptops, so they can be watching what's going on."
Regarding his experience with App-Techs, Wilson is complimentary. "Jenny has come through in a pinch for me ... I've had to call her with really short notice and say, 'Hey, I need a proposal quick for one school,' and the next day she'd have it. I'm big on technical support, too, you guys are good on that." He also comments, "It feels like a family operation, and I like that."
"We really have a great relationship with your company. I praise you every time I do my Safe Schools meetings and School Board meetings." Wilson says, "I had a school that called me, pretty far away, but I know the administrator there, and he had asked me what system we use and I hooked him up with Jenny. I'm a big believer in word-of-mouth ... If I'm really happy with a product and service, I like to let people know about it. I like to sing the praises of a company that's been great."
"It's been one of the best things of my career, getting the school district this camera system and all it has done for us. I actually was going to retire this year. I'm pretty sure now that I am going to stay, and one reason is this camera project. I'd really like to see it get in all the elementary schools, and I'll feel good about that, then I can retire." Postponing retirement to see this through with us — what more could App-Techs ask for in a customer? We greatly appreciate it. To learn more about how App-Techs can help your organization, call (717) 735-0848, contact us, or visit our website.