BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – As part of the superintendent’s report at Monday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Erin Slater and several district administrators updated the board on security plans in the works in the district.
Slater, Assistant High School principal Patrick Lamb and Assistant middle school principal Brent Zirkel, along with the Fort Madison Police Department’s school resource officer all attended a national convention on school safety and security in July.
She said the conference gave the group an opportunity to review the emergency response plans and look at some research based changes, some of which are already under way.
“We want to make sure that we’re not just not doing something because it sounds good or its the flavor of the month,” Slater said. “But we wanted you to know the reasons why we attended. We know that learning is best achieved in a safe and nurturing environment. Its our job and our responsibility to make sure we are doing the very best we can.”
Zirkel said most strategies of school safety will fall under four Ds, – Deter, Detect, Delay, and Defend.
He said strategies going forward will focus on detering any threats, detecting when something may be happening, trying to delay any threat to allow first responders time to react, and then in the worst scenarios take a defensive posture to the threat.
“All the things we talk about in school safety will fall under one of those Ds,” Zirkel said.
As a result of the learnings of the convention, the district has already developed a threat assessment team, which includes board director Dianne Hope. A public relations team has also been formed and has held meetings including various stakeholders including the district, the Area Education Association, the transportation and facilities departments, counselors and social workers to start doing planning that will help make sure everyone is safe.
“We need to discuss policies and practices that are always evolving,” Zirkel said. “One of the things I’ve see now and my eyes are very open to, is your plan goes right out the door the moment something happens because nothing can ever be perfectly planned for. We have to be conceptual. We want to plan for the process leading up to the threat.”
Lamb thank the board for approving the trip saying that training and education of that type isn’t frequent locally.
He said one of the most eye opening things to him was in regard to drug and alcohol activity.
“One of the most eye opening to me was an expert who was speaking on gangs and drugs and he said as kids walk through the door you can see things from the clothing the kids are wearing and how they’re wearing it,” he said. “I haven’t been looking at that at all, but it kind of opens your eyes as the kids walk through the door. A year ago, I wouldn’t even have known that some of the stuff they are wearing is actually references to drugs and alcohol. That’s pretty sneaky stuff.”
He asked the board to be advocates for the safety measures in the district or to be involved in the discussions and asked the district to commit to sending at least two representatives to the national safety conferences every year going forward.
He also talked about the P3 Campus program recently launched in the district. The program is an anonymous tip reporting app and is also web based and allows reporting on just about anything from pet abuse to sex abuse to bullying in a completely anonymous format.
“I’ve been the point person in the district and the lady we’ve been working with is a parent in the Sandy Hook district who’s children weren’t hurt in that shooting fortunately, but she has moved and become the point person for this company,” Lamb said.
“I think it will be a tool for us that we can start to determine trends. People will be comfortable in reporting those things to us and we can further investigate and hopefully do something about it.”
Lamb also said the district needs to change the way they do lockdowns and schedule them for more random times.
“We have been doing lockdown drills the same way for the past 20 years and we talked about it in the administrative council to switch that up and do it at inappropriate times. Shooters would come in not when everyone is safe in the classrooms, they would do it when students are up and moving around. So we need to make these more spontaneous as to when we have them.”
Board member Jared Hotop asked what kind of products the school had for securing doors.
Lamb said the the district has several types of locks on doors and numerous devices but not all rooms have them.
Slater said the P3 campus was the best tool they could bring in for the money, but the threat assessment team would look at all the options to see what makes the most sense for them.
In other action, the board
– heard from district business manager Sandy Elmore on FY 2017 final reports and approved the reports.
- approved Tim Wondra as the new board president. Timm Lamb didn’t seek re-election. Jillian Troxel was elected to replace Lamb and Wondra and Gayla Young were re-elected to their position. Young was approved as the new vice president. Both are two year terms.