School Board gets security, technology update

Published 10:36 pm Friday, March 15, 2019

Suffolk Public Schools has made upgrades and investments in technology to improve school security, but in a presentation to the School Board Thursday, the division’s technology director said it did not have enough money to put cameras at all of the mobile units.

Director of Technology John Littlefield said high-definition security systems have replaced old and antiquated VHS recording systems in all of the division’s middle and high schools.

Littlefield said the division has invested about $400,000 during the current school year to install 126 indoor security cameras at all elementary school entrances. Since 2013, he said, the school division has spent about $975,000 on access control and security cameras — about $300,000 of that coming from state security grants, and the rest coming from local funds.

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He noted that 48 additional cameras are being installed by the mobile units, but the division needs more cameras in these areas.

“We didn’t have enough funds to do all the mobile units that we have in the division,” Littlefield said. “But we addressed the highest density areas with those.”

Overall, the division has 400 indoor security cameras, 115 exterior security cameras and 101 doors at schools with access control.

Littlefield also noted that 95 percent of the footprint of every building in Suffolk Public Schools has wireless internet access, with 970 wi-fi access points. The division has 13,800 Chromebooks on carts for its 14,265 students. The division also has 2,060 Windows laptops in carts, and another 4,395 Windows desktop computers. Of those, staff members have checked out 587 Chromebooks and 527 Windows laptops.

“With close to 14,000 Chromebooks, which are all wi-fi, we need a very reliable wireless network,” Littlefield said.

The number of Windows desktop and laptop computers, he said, continue to decline, because they cost more than Chromebooks.

The division also has 203 Chromeboxes, most of them attached to the interactive Whiteboards at the division’s two newest schools, Col. Fred Cherry Middle School and Florence Bowser Elementary School, he said. Chromeboxes are small computers shaped like a small box that have connections to support a keyboard, pointing device and one or more monitors, and can act much like a projector.

The division’s schools use 3.5 to 4 terabytes of data every day, Littlefield said, with one terabyte equaling about 265 million pages. It has also been building a fiber network to connect all of its schools, which saves the division about $100,000 per month if it were to pay for the bandwidth, he said.

Littlefield said the division this year also completely changed its printing processes at 10 of its schools. By using a process called Follow Me Printing, he said staff members can print to the cloud, use an ID badge and then release the job on any Follow Me print device.

This process saves money, he said, by not wasting paper for print jobs that were never picked up and used. If a print job going to a Follow Me printer has not been activated within eight hours, it is deleted. he said. He said it costs less than half a cent per page to print a black-and-white page, and about 7.5 cents for each full color page.

“It’s a huge savings over time,” Littlefield said.

The school division spent just under $300,000 this year to convert the 10 schools with 163 Follow Me compatible devices.

Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney praised Littlefield and the 22-person team in the technology department.

“Mr. Littlefield and his staff, they do an amazing job with the number of staff members you see, the number of devices that we have and the number of teachers they support as well as the administration and students,” Whitney said.