CMS ditches million-dollar school security upgrade, claims it didn’t work

CMS ditches million-dollar school security upgrade, claims it didn?t work

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools ditched a school security system that cost more than $1 million and didn’t work properly, the district announced Tuesday night at its Board of Education meeting.

Superintendent Earnest Winston gave the company that built the system 30 days to fix it and Monday was the deadline.

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Monday was the deadline Winston said he gave to Centegix -- the vendor behind the security system -- to fix it or they would move on and try and get the district’s money back.

“We cannot have a system that works some of the time,” Winston said Monday.

The crisis alert system announced at the beginning of the school year was a major, innovative security upgrade installed in all comprehensive high schools.

Winston said through intense testing, the system has been inconsistent and some of the time, not working at all.

It is supposed to be triggered by using a panic card that all staff was given and trained on, which sends out school-wide alerts and lights up the button in different colors depending on the type of emergency, whether it be medical, weather or a safety threat.

Problems started in Spring 2019 when badges and beacons did not work properly, Winston said. In addition, tracking features failed to work. Those features were supposed to show administrators where a problem was occurring.

The total cost of the program was $1.7 million -- money that came from the county.

"So, we are terminating our relationship with the company and will seek to recover the $1.1 million we have paid. We will not pay the remaining $600,000,” Winston said in a news release.

Winston has not elaborated on what would happen next and has not discussed other vendors they would look at, if at all, but he did say in a meeting with county commissioners a couple of weeks ago if it doesn’t work by Feb. 10, they will go in a different direction and exercise a provision that will allow them to recoup the funds.

“Somebody needs to be held accountable and somebody’s head needs to roll,” County Commissioner Vilma Leake said.

On Tuesday, before the meeting, Centegix tweeted that they had successfully completed testing of the system in 26 CMS high schools.

“We recognize that this is cutting-edge technology and some glitches are to be expected. But despite our repeated requests for greater reliability and more responsive support from Centegix, we have not seen the improvements we hoped to see,” Winston said. “So, we have decided to end the relationship with Centegix. We will continue to look at new security technology as it is developed, but we don’t want to be a testing ground for a vendor’s product. We had hoped that Centegix would help us strengthen our safety net, but it didn’t work out that way.”

Centegix fought back and said the system was just used successfully Wednesday morning to put Garinger High School on a modified lockdown.

“The statements made by the district at Tuesday evening’s Board of Education meeting are false,” the company said in a statement. “It is abundantly clear that there is a disconnect between the CMS project team and CMS leadership, who do not have accurate information about this project, including the written documentation from the CMS project team defining the agreed-upon success criteria and that we passed these criteria.”

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