Following the recent violent attack on innocent lives at a school in Florida, I’ve heard from families, BOE members and employees who have written to me with concerns about school safety here. I’d like to share the work we’ve been doing on this topic over the past year and the changes we’re considering moving forward.
In early 2017 we contracted with Corporate Screening & Investigative Group to conduct a security and climate survey and risk assessment of the district. This was a thorough investigation conducted by Tony Olivo and his team in which he evaluated our school exterior and play areas, our school interiors and our staff and administrative practices.
What we learned from this assessment influenced many of the decisions we’ve made about our security practices. We’ve changed our safety drills from twelve fire drills per year, with one early evacuation drill, to practicing all of our emergency drills. While the topic of a school shooter makes everyone uncomfortable, we believe we must discuss, prepare and practice how to respond so that every member of our school family feels empowered to act responsibly in ways that can save lives.
The truth is that in the event of an emergency such as an active shooter, every person here has to be prepared to think quickly and to make the best possible decisions. Who can call a lock down in the event that they see something is wrong? Anyone. Who can call 911 in the event of an emergency? Anyone.
Please know that we also pay attention to each and every report about anyone who may be making threats or expressing alarming ideas or thoughts on social media. “SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING” is an important mantra for our students, employees and families to remember. We need everyone acting as advocates for student safety. Are the concerns false sometimes? Sure, but better that we investigate concerns than ignore them. We also have a full staff of school counselors and social workers who work with students who are struggling–please tell an adult if something seems worrisome so that we can get help to those in need.
School safety is the responsibility of every member of our school community. From the security and risk assessment, we implemented the following.
- All doors are to be locked at all times. In the event of an active shooter entering one of our schools, a quick response is paramount to saving lives. Teachers cannot be fumbling for keys to lock doors. Instead the doors should be locked so they can be quickly closed.
- All district staff are expected to wear their SGI name badges at all times while on duty and to use them to enter buildings.
- We have improved morning entry procedures for Boys and Girls Club students so that our buildings aren’t wide open and unlocked prior to the start of school.
- To the extent possible, everyone should enter through one centralized arrival point.
- We added a door monitor at SES and we now require all visitors to show and leave ID while visiting our buildings. This is in an effort to verify that people are who they say they are and to be able to quickly identify who is in our buildings.
- We dedicated time for ALL STAFF to learn more from Tony Olivo and NYS Trooper Tom Kelly about SGI Situational Awareness and Security as part of our staff development days. We conducted follow up training for our door monitors. I believe this kind of training needs to be repeated annually.
- We have two district level leaders who have school safety as a primary responsibility and are therefore charged with the task of routinely evaluating our practices, keeping current on what we can do better and reminding everyone of our responsibilities.
- Our building level safety teams are empowered to implement procedures that make sense for their buildings. An example is when the Colden Elementary Safety Team identified that parent pick-up at the end of the day will be better contained and safer if moved from the cafeteria to the front of the school.
We have a School Resource Officer, Erie County Sheriff Frank Simmeth, who we share with North Collins, provided to us through funding from Senator Pat Gallivan. Senator Gallivan is meeting with us next week to further discuss law enforcement’s role in school security.
What else can we do? In our current capital project, the bids were favorable enough that we have some funding to spend on things that weren’t initially planned. We also have Smart Schools Bond money available. I have specified that school safety improvements are our #1 Priority for the use of these funds. Following are possibilities we are considering.
- Technology solutions that allow us to lock down all doors within a building immediately.
- Improved security cameras placed where law enforcement and our security audit indicate.
- Aegis Technology that helps deliver a safer school by working with our existing camera system to provide proactive real-time alerts that will protect staff and students. Tony Olivo is joining us at our March 20 BOE meeting to discuss this technology with us.
- There is a film for the glass in our doors and windows that can be applied and would delay entry from an armed intruder.
We will be discussing school safety and security at our March 20 BOE meeting, 6:30 at Springville High School. We invite our employees, students and families to attend.
Will some of the outcomes of our safety improvements make things a bit more inconvenient? Perhaps. Will some visitors feel that the precautions aren’t necessary? Maybe. Is it worth it? Yes.
We want our families to feel welcome when they enter our buildings. We want you to feel a part of what we’re doing at SGI–please visit us! We just want to be smart and safe about it. When you come to my home, you’ll find the doors locked. When I see who you are and determine that I know you, that it’s safe to open my door to let you in, I’ll be warm and welcoming. Isn’t that how you are at home? That’s what we’re attempting to do here in our efforts to keep every child and employee safe at SGI.
And if all of these precautions are unnecessary? I’ll be very grateful.