Guilford County Commissioner Alan Perdue isn’t just a commissioner.
He’s also the guy who, for years, as the director of Guilford County Emergency Services, was charged with doing everything he could to keep the people in the county safe. He knows a thing or two or three about security, and, when Perdue got his chance on Thursday, June 3, to ask questions of Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras and other top school staff, he focused on current problems with school security cameras – something that’s obviously been a concern for many commissioners.
Perdue expressed his unease about multiple reports he’d heard of widespread issues with the school system’s security cameras.
Perdue said Southern Guilford High School was in his district and he added that there had been several incidences of concern there he knew about – including a recent highly publicized on-campus group attack on a 14-year-old girl.
Perdue said that security cameras in schools were extremely important and he added that there had been a strong call to get a well-working camera system into the schools. He also said there had been a good amount of funding by the commissioners for that purpose.
“The lack of cameras has hampered some investigations and safety issues for locating students or identifying those that are involved in an incident,” he said.
Perdue also said he knew of an incident where an exceptional child went missing and the camera system at that school was down. He said that made it difficult to know where to look. Perdue also said staff tried to check the camera footage and several hours went by before the SRO was involved.
“That’s a very serious concern for me because timing is critical in an emergency like that,” he said.
Perdue also said that people were out trampling through the woods in an attempt to find the student, and that, he added, essentially eliminated the option of using K-9’s to help find the child.
Perdue noted that the county commissioners gave the school system $10 million to use for things like upgrading security cameras.
In 2018, after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad made a successful motion to provide Guilford County Schools with $10 million for security.
Perdue asked about the 2018 money at the work session.
“I’m curious, of the $10 million we advocated for safety and security sometime back, what was done to help improve camera systems and what is being done as it relates to that, both with those dollars and any current dollars that might be coming?”
Contreras said that, regarding the recent attack at Southern Guilford, school officials were able to use the cameras to go back and investigate. But she acknowledged there were deficiencies when it came to the school system’s security cameras.
“The cameras are an ongoing issue in the schools and we simply have not had enough money to address the camera issues when we don’t have enough money to address basic heating issues and cooling issues and roof issues.”
She said this is an important need. However, the school system simply doesn’t have the means to take care of every pressing need, she said.
Contreras said one school system she was familiar with had recently passed a $22.5 million bond “just for the doors in one building.”