“FirstNet has been instrumental in us developing…what I believe is a gold standard for school safety and security"

Posted on February 26, 2019

by Dr. Rodney Cavness, Superintendent, Texas City Independent School District

As a school administrator, I’ve studied school safety and security for 30 years. And for 30 years, we’ve led from the rear. We've made our plans based on where other people made mistakes. And that’s a foolish way to lead. But that's all we had.

That’s no longer the case.

FirstNet has been instrumental in us developing – and implementing – what we believe is a gold standard of school safety and security. FirstNet keeps first responders connected; it keeps us connected to first responders. And I find a great deal of comfort in knowing that.

Finding the right solution

When we started looking at reinforcing school safety and hired Mike Matranga, now the executive director of safety and security for the school district, we decided we were going to have the gold standard for Texas. Vet every product. Exhaust every resource we had to find the right solution.

We looked at the data and the findings from previous school shootings. We found that one of the problems districts, or schools, or businesses have had is that so many people were on their cell phones you didn't have cell service. And as Mike Matranga says, the key part of any active shooter response or disaster response is communication.

Our school board was very supportive. They understood that they're not safety and security people. And they’ve shown great leadership throughout this process, letting us do what needs to be done.

Because in a school environment, we’ve got to be able to respond quickly and effectively. We’ve got to communicate from and to the command post. We’ve got to communicate with media. We've got to communicate with parents.

There's a long list of things that go into this. But FirstNet has got to be a key component of any school’s safety and security plan.

Keeping students safe

FirstNet has also been very positive with our school liaison officers (SLOs). They understand the importance of a good, clear line of communication with other members of the team, with the administration, with this office, for our safety and security plan.

We’ve become very focused on school shootings. But living on the Gulf Coast and in a community with multiple refineries, we need to be prepared for other types of incidents.

If we have some type of situation at one of the refineries – a fire, an explosion on a barge, a chemical release – FirstNet keeps us connected. So, we can communicate with law enforcement, fire and other responding agencies instantly and get the information we need to keep students safe.

That’s going to speed up our response time. It’s going to help us get kids out of buildings, or evacuate, or lock down, or whatever we need to do.

When communication breaks down, the plan fails. Because if you can't communicate, you can't activate your plan and have people where you need them.

Being a parent, of course, I worry about my daughter. But I feel a lot safer with her at school this year than I did a year ago.

Dr. Rodney Cavness is the Superintendent for the City of Texas City Independent School District, with 14 schools, and 9,000 students. He has 30 years of experience in education, including as superintendent and CEO of Port Neches Groves ISD in Port Neches, Texas; and superintendent and CEO in Evadale ISD in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area. Dr. Cavness holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology; a Master’s in Education Administration from Lamar University and a Doctorate in Administration and Supervision from the University of Houston.

Want to learn more about how the Texas City ISD is using FirstNet?

Read the blogs below:

FirstNet – the network “too good to be true” is helping simplify communications

By Sgt. Randall Johnston, Texas City Police

When it comes to security, communication is top priority for Texas City school district

By Mike Matranga, Executive Director of Security, Texas City ISD

“It's got to work for us, it's got to be reliable and it's got to be there for us when we need it”

By Derik Fillmore, Sergeant, Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, School Liaison Division

And watch the following videos: