Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools ended its relationship with security consultant Centegix on Feb. 11, citing the Atlanta-based company's failure to deliver a reliable alarm system that could monitor an entire school.
The Centegix technology was intended to add to the district's overall school-safety net, which includes screenings, dogs trained to detect drugs and guns, the LobbyGuard sign-in system for visitors, surveillance cameras and social/emotional supports for students.
The Centegix decision followed months of testing of the system, which gave school personnel badges that were promised to allow instant calls for help. When problems were identified in the spring of 2019, CMS stopped payments to Centegix but continued to work with the company to make the system effective. The total cost of the program was $1.7 million.
"After reviewing the persistent problems with Centegix, it appears that we have a system that works some of the time in some areas of our schools," Superintendent Earnest Winston told the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education at its Feb. 11 meeting. "However, Centegix has been unable to deliver what was promised: a security system to comprehensively provide coverage for a whole school. 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."
The district selected Centegix to provide a security system for 26 schools. Installation in the high schools began in early 2019, installing beacons that were supposed to sound the alarm when a teacher or staff member pressed an alarm button on a badge provided by Centegix. After the initial installations were complete, the district began testing the system intensively, independent of the Centegix testing. Problems began to surface in the spring of 2019: Badges and beacons didn't work properly. The tracking features of the system, intended to show administrators where a problem was occurring, didn't work reliably.
When Winston was named superintendent in August 2019, he instituted a review of the system. Based on that review, he gave Centegix an ultimatum on Jan. 10: Fix the problems within 30 days or CMS would end the relationship.
"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."