NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — Metro Nashville Schools (MNPS) spent nearly two million dollars on 130 thermal imaging cameras to help schools identify students running temperatures to keep COVID out of classrooms.
These thermal imaging cameras could also identify active shooters, but a FOX17 News investigation revealed no metro schools are using that feature.
Now, FOX 17 News is learning Metro Schools paid more than twice what the cameras cost.
MNPS bought REDCARE cameras to detect students running a fever, but that’s not the only way they’re meant to keep students safe.
The cameras not only have facial recognition but a metal detector and weapon detection thanks to artificial intelligence that allows the cameras to recognize a gun in someone’s hand.
“This was never put in just to be a thermal scanner, period, it was never meant to do that,” says Paul Kapu.
Kapu created this technology after the Parkland, Florida school shooting.
MNPS bought the cameras through the $18 million no-bid contract with Meharry Medical College and sub-contractors Recover Health.
According to Kapu’s invoice, he charged Recover Health 890 thousand dollars.
But Recover Health and Meharry Medical College charged MNPS $1.9 million, which makes that a $1 million markup.
“It’s surprising to say the least. I’m not sure what the upcharge is. If the budget was $1.9 million, we could have provided with that $1.9 million, a complete all feature, AI (artificial intelligence) based weapon detection, everything, including a multi-year service contract for under $1.9 million,” says Kapu.
So, what did Metro Schools get for their $1.9 million?
FOX 17 News has been repeatedly emailing the public relations team representing Meharry Medical College to find out.
A spokesperson referred Chin to a statement the college made several months ago:
We want to bring the attached story to your attention, posted this morning by Main Street Nashville. Please be advised that the story is ill-informed, factually inaccurate and does not take into account the unprecedented circumstances under which this work with Metro Schools took place.
For nearly 150 years, Meharry Medical College has been a trusted partner to the City of Nashville, operating always with transparency and in good faith. This includes the past two years during which, at the city’s request, we stepped forward to manage COVID testing and mitigation for the people and for the schools of Nashville.
This work came at considerable risk to our team. In that long stretch of months before the vaccine, there was no playbook for how to respond, people were afraid and confused, and the lives of our residents, including our children, were in jeopardy. Parents were desperate for the city to find a solution so their children could resume school.
Our contract with MNPS was negotiated and closely scrutinized by the attorneys for the school system prior to execution; Meharry mobilized multiple employees and vendors to provide the specific deliverables required in the contract; we were in daily contact with officials at the school system about the scope and ever-evolving details of the work involved; and MNPS reviewed the invoices throughout the term of the contract and paid them with satisfaction.
Chin also went to Meharry President Dr. James Hildreth’s office, requesting an interview.
His communications director toldus Dr. Hildreth has no comment, and no comment is what Chin also got in a brief phone call with Turner Nashe, the co-founder of Recover Health.
However, a spokesperson for Nashe later provided me with a statement that says, “The information you’ve received, and subsequent assumptions are flawed. It is notable that both Meharry and MNPS conducted a regular review process throughout the project to monitor the contract, performance milestones and resulting payments. We are proud of the work we did to support Meharry and MNPS students and staff during a critical time more than a year ago.”
Chin asked the spokesperson to clarify what information is flawed since we received both invoices. We are waiting on an answer.
“I’m going back and I’m going to point the direction back to Turner Nashe, and I want him to answer those questions about where this money is so that we can close this chapter in our lives with this contract. We can’t move on, and I don’t think anyone is gonna move on until the questions have been answered,” says Fran Bush.
Bush is one of Metro’s School Board members who questioned the no-bid contract with Meharry in the first place.
Bush wants to know what taxpayers received for thermal imaging cameras with a $1 million markup.
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