Volunteers make free security upgrades at two suburban schools
Concerned about the worsening epidemic of campus violence in the U.S., employees of a Schaumburg-based security company installed new security cameras at two suburban schools Friday and made other safety improvements at no cost to taxpayers.
The work at Whittier Elementary School in Waukegan and Katzenmaier Academy in North Chicago was done as part of Convergint Technologies' new STEP Up initiative. The program, an acronym for Secure, Train, Educate and Protect, aims to boost security at poorer schools.
"(They) just don't have the budgets and the wherewithal to get that done," said Tony Varco, vice president of Convergint's security division.
In addition to installing new cameras, the crews repaired existing equipment, wired cameras to office monitors and even did landscaping work to improve what cameras can see.
"The technology is only as good as its ability to do what it was intended to do," Varco said.
Convergint employees also volunteered at schools in Georgia, Ohio and Texas on Friday as part of the STEP Up launch, which was held on a day the company annually dedicates to community work.
Varco was particularly moved to action by February's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead and 17 wounded.
Varco noted police in Parkland didn't have access to live video of what was happening in the school during the massacre and didn't have accurate, timely information as a result.
"When I think of what happened in Florida, it turns my stomach," Varco said. "Somebody has to take responsibility for this and help."
As part of the STEP Up effort, Convergint has created a free safety checklist for schools to conduct their own safety audits this summer. Tips include: making sure all exterior and interior door locks work; cleaning, aiming and focusing surveillance cameras; testing intercom systems; and changing batteries in wireless security and fire detection devices.
The full checklist can be found at convergint.com/stepup.
Convergint project manager Peter Dublinski headed the effort at Whittier Elementary. Taking a day to volunteer at the school "feels awesome," he said.
"People helping people, it's beautiful," Dublinski said. "It's how the world is supposed to be."
Whittier Elementary Principal Jennifer Rice De La Sanchez was grateful for the company's labor.
"It's overwhelming," she said.
Other Convergint employees worked on various projects at sites across the country. Elsewhere in the Chicago area, they packed food at the Feed My Starving Children center in Schaumburg.