MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — One day after the deadline set by Superintendent Earnest Winston, Centegix, the company that installed the new crisis alert system in CMS schools, announced they have successfully completed testing the system.
CMS, however, said they plan to cut ties with the company.
"We did not get, and will not get, what we were promised and what we paid for," Winston said.
It comes after the superintendent announced last month that it wasn't fully operational.
He gave the company until Monday to get it up to speed and talked about it at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. Tuesday night, Winston said he had not yet had a chance to speak with Centegix.
"The problems we've had are more than glitches," Winston said.
Centegix says the system is ready for teacher training and is working in more than 5,000 classrooms and school facilities, like cafeterias and gyms, in 26 CMS schools.
The system is meant to instantly alert students, teachers and police when there is an emergency with the press of a button.
Superintendent Earnest Winston promised County Commissioners he'd take aggressive action if they didn’t fix the system, specifically saying he'd work to get the $1.1 million already spent back.
Centegix sent this statement to WCNC Charlotte:
CENTEGIX™, an IoT company dedicated to innovating technology to save and enrich lives, announces successful completion of testing of the CrisisAlert™ solution in 26 Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CMS) high schools.
Over the last 30 days, CENTEGIX has worked in good faith with the CMS project team to accelerate testing of the CENTEGIX CrisisAlert solution to meet the February 10, 2020 deadline requested by the CMS Superintendent. On Monday, January 6, 2020, CMS leadership requested that CENTEGIX launch six schools into pilot mode, in addition to the four pilot schools launched in November and December of 2019. Four days later, the CMS Superintendent publicly requested that the timeline be accelerated for all high schools, with a target completion date of February 10, 2020. CENTEGIX accommodated the accelerated timeline to help create a more secure learning environment for CMS students and educators.
All 26 of the contracted high schools completed quality assurance testing, met all of the agreed-upon success criteria, and are ready for teacher training and deployment. Testing of two high schools was delayed due to the severe weather on February 6, 2020, and final tuning at one of those high schools will be completed on February 12. The CrisisAlert platform is operational in more than 5000 classrooms, gyms, outdoor facilities, cafeterias, and media centers in the area high schools.
More than 50 alerts have been initiated since the pilot schools were launched because of real-world emergency incidents, including lockdowns, modified lockdowns, weather alerts, medical emergencies, and physical altercations.
Most notably, these alerts included a Full Campus Lockdown initiated by a CMS employee via a CrisisAlert badge that was reported on January 15, 2020. The alert resulted in multi-sensory notifications which included strobes, screen-takeover, and automated public-address announcements at each school. First responder notification, via the CrisisAlert First Responders Application, was also included. The incident was later de-escalated to a Modified Lockdown via the CrisisAlert Mobile Application.
Further, CrisisAlert was successfully used Thursday, February 6, 2020 to initiate Severe Weather alerts in three of the pilot sites due to tornadoes and extreme weather conditions.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the CMS school district to deploy CrisisAlert and continuing to fulfill our mission of innovating technology to save and enrich lives,” said Matthew Stevens, CEO of CENTEGIX.
The CENTEGIX solution is unique for its ability to deliver alert location accuracy, total campus coverage, immediate notification, and audio and visual alerting. The company’s CrisisAlert platform is a crisis management solution that protects over 700 schools and 600,000 students and staff members, empowering first responders with actionable information and enabling them to respond faster in any emergency situation.
In response, CMS said it would be ending its relationship with Centegix.
CMS hasn't paid the company in full yet. Winston said the district will not be paying the additional $600,000 they owe Centegix.
“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, in part, in a statement.
Mecklenburg County funds CMS, and some commissioners had concerns about the security system before the district's bombshell decision, including Commissioner Vilma Leake. She represents district two.
"He did not give us a deadline, he did not give us a perspective on how urgent it was, because it's urgent," Leake said. "To us it's urgent," she said referring to county leaders.
She said she supported the decision but still has questions.
"I want to know who made that decision to go with that company," Leake said. We can't get names of who made that decision, who signed the contract. Somebody needs to be held accountable, and somebody's head needs to roll."
The Charlotte Observer has reported that ousted, former Superintendent Clayton Wilcox pushed for the deal with Centegix, though that has not been made publicly known.
He was terminated from his job in 2019, with no public explanation.