On Thursday, January 24, FOX10 News told you about the Mobile County Public School System’s way of alerting parents if an emergency occurs on your child’s campus. On Friday, FOX10 found out how the system actually works, who monitors it and most importantly, who controls it.
The School Messenger System is used system-wide in all Mobile County Public Schools. It is customizable and only one person has access at each school: the principal. The principal is also the same person to make the decision of whether a message should be sent or not.
On Wednesday, Mary G. Montgomery principal James Gill sent this message to parents:
“Good morning. This is James Gill, principal of Mary Montgomery high school. The purpose of this message is to inform you that an unloaded handgun was recovered without incident from a student’s book bag. The student has been removed from campus. Thank you. Have a great day.”
Just a week prior, a loaded handgun was found on campus across town at BC Rain, but principal Maron Firle did not alert parents.
Why was the discovery of a weapon handled in two different ways?
“Is it is a discretionary call from the principals, and we trust them to make this judgment calls,” said David Akridge, the executive manager of Information Technology with the school system.
Akridge told FOX10 News even though it is left up to the principals to make final decisions, the truth prevails.
“The principal has to make a judgment call and say, ‘I need to alert everybody of the truth,’” said Akridge.
FOX10 News wanted to know exactly how the system worked.
“We have some schools that use it more than others. I would say that on average the schools use it at least for five times a year. We have your high users that they use it every day,” said Tracye Mathis, telecommunications web manager.
Every day – with messages about attendance, lunch money and reminders. But what about emergencies? Or even worse: a gun on campus.
“We don’t get really that many emergency phone calls. We have parents that do enjoy getting information. We have some that would rather not have gotten the call. But it’s our responsibility while we’re interested with those children, to make sure that as far as their education, their safety, and their security that we communicate with parents that they’re good,” said Mathis.
“You really don’t want parents to be desensitized by receiving an emergency message every day for something. Things happen at school, things that principals can take care of and alleviate, and then there are things that you just need to let the community know. Some communities are different. We are a vast district,” said Akridge.
FOX10 News has reached out repeatedly to people who can answer why the two cases were treated differently: District 1 School Board Member for MGM Douglas Harwell and District 4 School Board Member Tracie Roberson. Despite trying for the past two days, neither has responded.
Akridge told FOX10 News the cost for the School Messenger costs approximately $30,000 per year to ensure children’s safety and get messages to parents. The functionality of the system can be utilized phone, text, or e-mail.
FOX10 News will continue to dig for answers and keep you posted on this story.