In my last blog, I wrote about the massive budget deficits facing most school districts, making it vital that everyone learn to do more with less. Yet, at the same time, we can’t overlook the security needs of our campuses. A few thefts or acts of vandalism can cost more than the security that may have helped prevent the crimes.
It begins with a security risk assessment. The goal is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the district’s security program. Often times, the weaknesses can be remedied with simple, inexpensive solutions such as landscaping, fencing, or lighting.
Problems may only require changes in policies and procedures, such as making sure doors are locked at all times when rooms are not in use or that a visitor management plan is put into place to keep unwanted people off campus. Also, look to parents as a source of volunteer labor to help monitor parking lots, playgrounds, and other areas of the campus throughout the day.
If more sophisticated security technology is warranted, there are ways to acquire it for less. One is through winning government and private grants open to school districts. Although grants are available throughout the year, many are awarded in the spring. Most often they go to schools and districts that are best prepared to show specific needs. That is where the risk assessment can play a pivotal role.
Another way to save money is through a free membership in the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA), which provides all public and non-public educational systems, governmental agencies, and nonprofits with a host of goods and services, including security. The NJPA establishes and provides nationally leveraged and competitively solicited purchasing contracts that can save money on cameras, emergency notification systems, and access control equipment.
It is also important to point out that many insurance companies provide discounts to districts that have taken positive steps to secure their students, staff, and property.
The next few years are likely to be very difficult for school boards as they try to balance budgets at a time when demands for service continue to increase in many districts. It will be critical to find value in every dollar spent. By doing so, vital programs such as security can continue to provide campuses where teachers can teach and students can learn without fear.
Patrick V. Fiel Sr. is public safety advisor for ADT Security Services and a former executive director of school security for Washington, D.C. Public School System. He also served 22 years in the Army Military Police Corps, where his responsibilities included day-to-day security operations at the West Point Military Academy. During his time with ADT, Fiel has conducted more than 100 television, radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews as a public and school safety expert.
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