Communication is the absolute number one priority when it comes to security for us in the K-12 market.

You can have the best training in the world, you can be the best tactical operator, you can be the best shot, you can be in the best shape, but none of that matters if you cannot effectively communicate with others for reinforcements.

That’s critical.

And that’s why we chose FirstNet for the Texas City ISD. FirstNet gets it.

Giving back

I grew up on the Gulf Coast near Texas City – graduated from La Marque High School in 1995. And I’m a firm believer in following your heart. I always wanted to give something back to the community that’s given me so much.

So, after the Santa Fe, Texas school shooting, I did a self-evaluation of where I wanted to be – what I needed to do. And when this opportunity came up in Texas City to help protect our kids and our staff, I knew that’s where I needed to go.

Our administrative staff and our law enforcement officers need peace of mind, so they can focus on the important things. They need to feel protected. And I want them to have the same peace of mind that I experienced in my career with the United States Secret Service. So, I asked myself, “How do I provide that same level of protection?”.

FirstNet was the obvious choice. I thought it was a fantastic tool to provide to our district. It provides the reliable communications we need to stay connected to first responders and each other. And it’s critical in a crisis like they had in Santa Fe – when the lines are overwhelmed.

Peace of mind

When you look at the challenges we face as a school district, everybody thinks about active shooters. And mass shootings are a tremendous threat to our schools and to our society. But we live on the Texas Gulf Coast. And there are many other factors – and potential threats – that we should consider. These include industrial accidents – because we have a huge industrial complex here in the city of Texas City – hurricanes and other natural disasters.

In any of those three events, we need clear, protected and reliable communications. And FirstNet provided that for us. It’s the whole package.

I had two big challenges since coming to Texas City. The first was to make sure we have reliable communication we can count on to communicate internally and with first responders. And the second was to ensure our staff understood what situational awareness means. The FirstNet tools and applications took care of the first one. And we’re working on the second one.

I want our staff to know what situational awareness looks like in their environment – on their campus. I want there to be a complete culture shift. For example, we can’t just assume that a door is going to close behind us when we walk in. Sometimes they don’t. So, we need to make sure we have that culture shift. So that when they come through that door, if they don’t hear it click and lock, then they turn around and they make sure that it’s closed.

Finding the right solution

Kids these days face new challenges and what may look like a behavioral issue may be something else. So, the biggest challenge for us has been to decide what works in a school setting. What works in corporate America may not work for us. Security is not a one-size-fits all solution.

In a school environment, the teacher and school liaison officer work very closely. They have the same mission and the same goal – and that’s to protect the students and the staff. So, they need a tool that helps them do that. And that’s FirstNet.

My children attend Texas City ISD. Having FirstNet gives me peace of mind. I know that whatever crisis comes our way, our administrators and our school liaison officer will have the tools they need to complete the task – a proven tool that is on a designated network for first responders.

With FirstNet, I’m confident that we will have the reliable communications we need to succeed here at Texas City ISD.

Michael Matranga is Executive Director of Security and Safety for the Texas City Independent School District. He served as a special agent with the United States Secret Service from 2004 to 2016. He has traveled to 27 countries, including two war zones, Iraq and Afghanistan. And he has done advance work on the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.