Future-Ready Superintendents Review AI Solutions for School Security


About 200 Texas school administrators convened at HyperWerx last week to discuss AI solutions for school security. Invited by school administrators at Liberty Hill Independent School District, members of the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Network (FRSLN) spent the morning of Leap Day learning how they can leap forward in securing their campuses from active shooter threats and enhance safety and situational awareness with SparkCognition Visual AI Advisor.

Gen. Allen speaks to FRSLN audience about AI solutions for school security
Gen. Allen speaks to TASA-FRSLN on AI solutions for school security

The program began with a keynote from General John R. Allen, USMC (Ret.). A retired four-star general who commanded the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Allen began by thanking the educators for the work they do every day: “You know, in America, we often hear people thank folks for their military service, or we hear them thank first responders, our firefighters, and police. But we don’t thank our educators and our teachers nearly enough in this country. You are about the future of our children. You are about the future of our society. You are about the future of our country. It’s not possible to thank you all enough for the sacrifices you make every single day, on behalf of our children, on behalf of our communities—because you also are the glue that holds our communities together in many respects—and what you do for our future. It’s wonderful to have you here today.”

In his remarks, Gen. Allen drew parallels between his experience leveraging artificial intelligence’s profound capacity to process enormous amounts of data to protect troops and how school administrators can use AI tools to empower safety officers to protect campus environments. Gen Allen noted how commercial AI systems today, integrated appropriately and ethically into physical infrastructures such as schools, “provide a level of understanding of the environment of that school—the potential threats surfacing in and around those schools—in ways we could never have imagined before because now these algorithms can see, they can sense, and they can sound the alarm.”

Milton Lopez conducts a live demo of Visual AI Advisor.
Milton Lopez, Director of Applied Solutions at SparkCognition, conducts a live demonstration of Visual AI Advisor.

After presenting a Visual AI for School Safety overview, SparkCognition CMO Stephen Gold introduced Milton Lopez, Director of Applied Solutions, who would conduct a live demonstration of Visual AI Advisor for Education for the audience.

Gold asked the attendees to keep in mind during the demo: “Probably the one thing to remember is that there’s nothing about what we’re talking about today that requires you to change what you have. You don’t rip and replace. You don’t update your cameras. You don’t get rid of or remodel your networks. […] All we do is we take and we intercept [your] video, and we run it through these algorithms, and we have the AI look at [your visual data] in real-time.”

With that, Lopez began the demo. Using HyperWerx as a simulated school environment, the FRSLN audience was shown how standard-issue cameras on the HyperWerx grounds detect and alert autonomously on a wide variety of use cases, including unauthorized entry to person-down to weapon detection—and even how drones can be deployed to feed real-time information to first-responders tracking a person of interest.

Then Liberty Hill’s Superintendant Steven Snell and Chief of Schools Travis Motal spoke about their experience deploying Visual AI Advisor across their school district, sharing real-life examples and observations since they started working with SparkCognition about a year and a half ago.

How Liberty Hill got started with AI solutions for school security

Motal emphasized the power of partnership as a key to their success. “We started working with SparkCognition […] really trying to identify what this relationship could look like,” he said, continuing: “[The SparkCognition Team] really are partners with our community. They’ve been amazing from the very beginning, sitting down with our teams and working through all of it.”

Motal talked about why the first step, the decision to get started, is always the most important one. “I did a podcast for the Texas School Safety Center the other day, and they were asking questions about hesitation. I said it’s like anything—you just got to get started. For the first few months, we were very kind of “I don’t know, I don’t know” but once we got into it and we developed a great relationship, it started to be really smooth. We were able to make a plan to get deployed, get a budget going, and all those kinds of things that you have to factor in. It really has been a great partnership.” Superintendent Snell concurred, recognizing the role of SparkCognition founder Amir Husain and his wife Zaib in spearheading the relationship: “It started with this family. They have children in our schools. They just want them to be safe […] not just their children but all our children.” Snell recalled how they approached him, saying, “‘Hey, we’ve got something, and we can help. Let’s work together to keep our children safe and focus on education.’”

Next, Motal walked the audience through a slideshow of images that Visual AI Advisor had sent him through text and email over the last year or so—all (fortunately) false alarms. He chuckled about the first system alert they got just two hours after deploying Visual AI Advisor. Flagged as a possible weapon detection, it turned out to be nothing more than the school librarian operating a hot glue gun in a school hallway. “I can tell you when we got the text and the emails, everybody’s heart rate just went [sky-high]. We were like, ‘Oh my goodness, here it goes. We deployed, and we’re on it. But it’s our librarian with the hot glue gun. So we were very excited. We were like, “Okay, it definitely works!’”

Motal shared that he has gotten alerts when their Color Guard practices with their wooden rifles, showing attendees a few examples of this scenario. “I actually had several emails yesterday. They were practicing for competition.” He held up his mobile phone to show how he reviews alerts as he gets them. “When they come through text and email, they just go right to [the image]. It says high school camera number [XXXX], and I know that it’s in the fine arts area, so I know automatically [what this is]. It’s got a screenshot [to confirm] just right there on your phone that you can get without even having to go into the dashboard.”


Travis Motal shows Visual AI Advisor alerts he gets through his phone
Travis Motal shows Visual AI Advisor alerts he gets through his phone

Showing a different alert he got one evening, Motal said: “You look on your phone. You’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, that really looks like a gun, right? It’s actually a stand for a band member to put the music on. So once you’re able to put some context to what’s going on [you can understand it]. Which is great about the image, right? If you strictly just had one piece of information, you might make a [fleeting] decision, but when you’re able to get the whole screenshot and the video and piece it all together very quickly—like I said, it’s a text message that comes right to your phone—you can quickly figure out what it is.”

“I’d rather have the alert and not need it than not get the alert at all.”

Liberty Hill ISD uses Visual AI Advisor for more than just weapon detection, like propped doors, unauthorized access, person down, and more, as the Chief of Schools explained from the stage.

Motal showed how cameras in a hallway that goes out to the band practice field send him alerts when the door is left open for any reason without a person stationed next to it, like if it’s propped open with a rock or a chair (which used to happen a lot). A particular stairwell camera is configured to alert if the AI-enabled cameras detect anyone remaining for longer than necessary, which helps track students who might be skipping class, etc., in addition to augmenting security there. In another case, Visual AI Advisor was the first to detect a student experiencing a diabetic emergency lying prone in the hallway, which is a textbook example of why they chose to deploy the person-down use case to bring more situational awareness throughout the school. On the other hand, Motal sometimes gets an alert when students are just lying down in a hallway, studying together, but he noted he prefers it that way: “These are great alerts. You’ll get the alert. Cool, no problem. Acknowledge it and move on, right? I’d rather have the alert and not need it than not get the alert at all.”

Wrapping up the morning’s agenda, Motal delivered his take-home message to his fellow school administrators: that school safety is a journey, not a destination, and expressing the value they have found in sharing knowledge, finding partners, and leaning into proactive AI solutions for school security.

“Like I said, it’s been a great partnership. It’s one of those things that we continue to evolve, we’re continuing to learn, and [we want to] implement anything we can do to help keep our school safe.”

To learn more about SparkCogntition Visual AI Advisor for Education:


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