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I was honored in January 2014 to be appointed by the Newtown Board of Education as their new superintendent.
When I had the opportunity to thank the school board, I chose my words carefully and shared with all in attendance that my short and long term plan would be to always respect the past, work hard in the present, and with the entire community, plan the future.
I have used this simple credo to intrinsically challenge my work every day since my arrival to Newtown in April 2014.
I have a passion for children and opportunity.
I feel strongly that the power of outstanding teaching and learning must take place in a safe and secure environment.
I worry about safety daily.
This district must make a difference one student, staff member, and parent at a time.  This district, like all districts, must be able to impact not most or many, but every student, staff member, and parent.
In the ever-changing landscape of Public School America, there remains one constant pertaining to safety:  the absolute best plan is always a plan in progress.  Incrementally, every community must work towards completing their plan; however, I would worry about any district who believes their work is complete.
How well do we know our most complex students and staff? How well do we know our most complex parents and community members? How well do we know our emergency protocols?  How hard have we worked to harden our buildings?
I would reach out to every school leader across the country and ask each of you to never ever get comfortable with safety.  Always challenge all entities of your district with best practice……..all of the time.

Dr. Joseph V. Erardi, Superintendent of Schools, Newtown, CT

Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  This is something that we have all heard since we were young kids.  If you were an athlete, you needed to practice in order to gain proficiency in your sport or prepare for a game.  If you were a musician, you spent hours practicing to excel or prepare for a recital or concert.  As law enforcement officers, we continually train and practice our tactics and skills for when it is needed to protect and serve the citizens in our communities.

The same principle applies to school students and staff and the emergency drills they should be practicing every year.  Telling students and staff how to go into lockdown in the event of an emergency isn’t the same as properly conducting a hands-on drill where teachers practice securing their location while supervising and directing a classroom full of students.  Nerves may be jumping and heart rates may increase a little during the drill, but that’s exactly what needs to happen to ensure competency in the event of an emergency.

Some questions you need to ask yourself regarding a lockdown at your school:

  • How do teachers secure classroom doors?
  • Does the door lock from the inside or do you have to open the door and use a key to lock it from the hallway?
  • Do teachers keep keys with them at all times or are they locked in a bag or desk drawer?
  • What do you do secure classroom windows?
  • What do you do if one of your students is out of the room when a lockdown is initiated?
  • How will staff and students react to a critical incident on the campus?
  • How are they notified?

The answers to these questions shouldn’t be too difficult to determine as long as you have practiced your emergency drills.  If you don’t know the answer to one or more of these questions, your drills aren’t properly preparing you.

Don’t just go through the motions of a drill to “check the box” that says you met your requirement; this does not benefit anyone, in fact it can cause more harm than good.  Conduct your drills frequently and take them seriously.  Remember, these drills will help you gain proficiency in the event that an critical incident occurs on your campus.

Practice. Practice. Practice…

Kevin Quinn is the past president of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO www.nasro.org), current President of the Arizona School Resource Officers Association (ASROA www.asroa.org), and a full time SRO in Arizona.  Contact Kevin via email:  kevin.quinn@nasro.org or @klah316 on Twitter.

 

 

Safety and Security. These two words get tossed around and together all the time. They are often used interchangeably. They are, of course, strongly related, but two distinct concepts nonetheless.

In terms of our school communities, “safety” is a global term, used to describe our efforts to keep the school community and environment safe. Safety is an “umbrella term” for the many types of issues and/or crises a school community addresses in order to ensure the overall wellness of its members.

Examples of such issues are health, mental wellness, school climate, fire safety, weather safety, building security, dangerous persons, bullying, environmental disaster, crime in the community, and bus and traffic safety. The number and type of each issue a school community addresses is highly specific to the community. Factors such as location, student population, culture, geographic location, and proximity to potential dangers are completely unique to each school.

While many schools are focusing intently on building security because of recent events like our tragedy, it is critically important that school communities examine the entire “Safety Umbrella” of their school in order to provide a truly comprehensive plan for school safety. Security may be the most lacking of all aspects of safety in our schools today and as such deserves our attention. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that security represents one of many critical aspects of the “School Safety Umbrella.”

What kind of coverage does your school’s “safety umbrella” provide?

MG

Safety Umbrella