In response to recent school shootings and the cry for increased safety measures to be put in place, many school districts are re-evaluating their procedures, practices and protocols to build an understanding of where there might be gaps or cracks in their current safety and security plans. Safety in our schools encompasses issues well beyond the watchman at the door. Ensuring the safety and security of our students should involve issues as wide-ranging as social-emotional learning to facilities.
Recognizing the depth and complexity of current events and the reality of emotionally-charged nationwide responses, members of the Sewanhaka Central High School District leadership team led by Superintendent Ralph Ferrie, worked with TregoED’s Kathy Blackburn to determine and clarify key issues that need to be addressed. They used the framework of Situation Appraisal to involve key stakeholders in their initial evaluation of the present state of their security measures. The process helped them develop an understanding of the issues and prioritize what needed to be done in a timely and effective manner.
Breaking Down the Issues
Their first steps in attacking this problem was to begin to break the problem down into manageable pieces. They chose to divide the problem into three main areas, asking 3 probing questions:
• Security of district facilities – “What are the issues and barriers we need to address to optimize security of district facilities?” Unique issues were broken down to gain an understanding of the complexity of the problem. They looked at unique needs of the facilities breaking issues down into physical infrastructure, financial needs and community access. Looking deeper into these areas, it became clear that ensuring the security of facilities would have to be a collaborative effort.
• Social and Emotional Safety – “What are the barriers preventing all students from feeling socially and emotionally safe at school?” In this area, the discussion centered around staff knowledge of mental health issues and determining and finding additional resources to support the social emotional needs of the students that they serve. Actions to address these issues included surveying students and staff, planning for comprehensive professional development, and setting strategic goals around enhancing social and emotional health.
• Safe School Environment – “What practices, procedures and processes prevent us from ensuring a safe school environment for all students, visitors and staff?” Discussions in this area focused on several areas including developing clear and consistent entry, attendance, and security procedures and a communication plan to ensure that all constituents are getting the same accurate message in all schools and the community at large.
Transparency is Key
Obviously, each school and district have their own unique issues and actions, however, using a transparent process to determine and clarify those issues, prioritize and develop action items is a universal way to deal with those issues. TregoED processes started the Sewanhaka Central High School District on their way to developing a comprehensive plan for the safety and security of their staff, student and communities. Their leadership’s deliberate and thoughtful approach is a model for all school districts who wish to do the same.