School Board discusses surveillance
During the regular meeting of the Prairie Hills USD No. 113 Board of Education, Superintendent Todd Evans presented the board with information he had gathered from other area schools, law enforcement and the insurance company regarding surveillance.
This information gathering process is the result of two vandalism incidents at district schools in a span of four months — one at Sabetha High School in April, and another at Wetmore Academic Center in August. At the August meeting, the board asked that Evans gather information from other area schools, law enforcement and insurance companies.
All other members of the Big 7 League have surveillance equipment at their school buildings, Evans said, though to varying degrees. Some have very expensive, extensive systems. Most of those he talked to have the cameras for the purpose of catching disruptions within the school, rather than catching vandals.
Sabetha Police Chief Robert Wahwasuck told Evans that he believes the cameras act as a deterrent. He presented a list of advantages and disadvantages to surveillance.
Nemaha County Sheriff Rich Vernon told Evans that, while surveillance cameras are not a “cure all,” cameras within the community of Wetmore are what helped the Sheriff’s Office identify suspects in the recent WAC vandalism case.
A representative from the insurance company stated that security cameras are just one component of a comprehensive school security program. However, it is the company’s position that cameras do not prevent crime but can be useful in identifying the culprits. At Wetmore specifically, the representative said, during a 2008 security study of the building they had noted other, more pressing security shortcomings.
Board Member Jim Scoby asked if the insurance person had said anything about saving money if the district implemented cameras, or costing more money if the district does not. Evans said no.
Board Member Jeff DeMint said he would play “devil’s advocate,” stating that both recent vandalism cases were solved without the schools having cameras.
Board Member Kathy Lippert said that, while the schools did not have cameras, the Sheriff’s Office did utilize security cameras in the community to identify the suspects.
DeMint said he believes the board needs to determine what the purpose of the cameras would be — for security of the buildings, or for school behavior.
J. Scoby said he agreed that the board needs to provide more guidance regarding whether they want external cameras, internal cameras, or both.
Lippert said she believes the information Evans presented has been helpful, and she believes the next step is to gather cost information for varying degrees of security.
“What type of surveillance we want might depend heavily on the cost, so I don’t think we can make that decision until we have an idea of cost,” Lippert said.
She suggested Evans present three plans — minimal, modest and higher end — for all five district buildings. At that point, she said, the board could discuss the value of the different plans.
Evans asked the board for permission to hire a consultant to help him with this request.
Board Member Kent Saylor said that he believes vendors would provide consultation free of charge.
Reznicek said that potentially it would be better to have an independent consultant, rather than those trying to sell their product, because of the complexity of the district.
Evans said he would prefer an independent consultant. He said he believed the board had given enough guidance for him to move forward in the information gathering process.
The board indicated that Evans could move forward with gathering cost information.
Amber Deters120 Posts
Amber Deters is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2005. She specializes in school board, election and legislative reporting, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Amber is a 2005 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in journalism and mass communications, print journalism sequence. She lives in Sabetha with her husband and three children.