Summer is getting into full swing for many of you. It is hard to believe we are almost at the end of June already. There has been much going on at Central Office and at the campuses to prepare for a safe 2018-2019 school year. I wanted to give you a brief report on some of the highlights.
Erich Kreiter: FISD has hired a new Executive Director of Security and Operations for FISD. We have posted his bio on the website and have highlighted him recently on our facebook and twitter pages. I hope you get a chance, if you have not already, to look at his experience and training to provide direction for safety and security. We are blessed to have him join our team as we look at additional features to securing our schools. He will provide expertise in the area of safety and has a vested interest as his kids currently attend FHS. Kreiter’s Bio
Safety Advisory Committee: As most of you are aware, we have established a new Safety Advisory Committee that is made up of district administrators, teachers, school counselors, law enforcement officers, students, parents, and community members. The purpose of this committee is to give input on the new layers of safety being considered. This group is carefully considering these layers in an effort to implement measurable and active layers that are sustainable for years to come. The goal is to present recommendations to the board at the July 16th meeting. We have lots to talk about in an abbreviated summer schedule.
At our first meeting, Erich Kreiter reviewed the layers currently in place, layers being considered for enhancement, and new layers to consider. The slide presentation will give you an idea of each of these areas. School Safety Layer Slides He spoke extensively about each of these points, but the slides will give you some ideas on the layered approach, including those that are being considered by the committee and the work going on this summer.
The decision-making process when adding layers is critical and needs to be strategic due to FISD’s financial situation along with most districts in the state, as we all are considering deficit budgets for the coming year. We have budgeted for additional safety layers, but there is a limit before impacting student programs, teacher pay, and other critical components. Thus, each decision needs to be evaluated for impact, sustainability, and determination of the unintended consequences that could be possible in implementation.
Additional Law Enforcement: Over the past few weeks, the District has been researching the option of adding additional law enforcement as a layer. First, we understand this isn’t and can’t be the only layer. Law enforcement has been in place in all of the schools where shootings have occurred. Having multiple layers in place as preventative measures as well as a response layer is critical to the safety of our students and staff.
As we have done our research, we have learned that there are jurisdictional issues that prevent using multiple entities to fill needs for additional law enforcement. Essentially, we have to pick the jurisdictional entity that best fits the school district.
We have learned as well that there is also a deficit of officers locally and across the nation that doesn’t allow for quick additions of officers. FPD has told us that it could be in the range of 12-18 months to add additional officers. We have a tremendous advantage in FISD because of our relationship with FPD. This relationship has been a preventative element in many situations in which I have had personal experience of my years with FISD.
After meeting with FPD and working on a new agreement for the coming year, FPD will be able to add two more officers to our current staff of 2 School Resource Officers. Currently, we have an SRO at the high school and one at the junior high. FPD has worked with us to provide a roving SRO for the elementary and intermediate campuses immediately at the start of the new school year and a second officer at the high school as soon as hiring and training can take place — likely in January, if not sooner. This agreement was approved by the Board at a special meeting this week and will now be going to City Council for consideration. This would double the current amount of law enforcement on FISD campuses.
Also, I have discussed with Chief Weiners an increased police presence on our campuses on top of the quick response times provided in Friendswood. FPD is considering plans to have officers on patrol or have those working in the area become a more visible presence at the campuses at random periods. This will be in addition to the FPD officers that currently direct traffic at the beginning and end of the school day at each campus as well as the SRO officers.
Other response layers: During our first meeting with the School Safety Advisory Committee the main discussion topic on our agenda was to discuss this additional law enforcement presence as well as other response layers. The committee specifically focused on the use of school marshals (armed employees who go through a specific training protocol), the use of private security, and the arming of volunteers or employees via a Guardian Plan. More information on the specifics of these programs can be found in the governor’s safety plan. (Governor’s Safety Plan). The FISD School Board will be considering policy changes over the next few months to make these options available for the District. Implementation of these options would require additional action, but having a policy in place is the first step toward implementation if that is what our community and district desire.
It is clear from the initial meeting with the Safety Advisory Committee that there are mixed feelings about arming employees via a Marshall or Guardian program. Because it is essential to look closely at all of the aspects of a program like a school marshal program, we gave out additional reading homework about the Marshal Program and will continue the discussion at our next meeting. On June 21st, we will be continuing the discussion of school marshals and other local security options. Other items on this agenda include metal detectors, visitors to campuses, safety protocols and universal terminology.
Limiting Access / Fencing: The Executive Director of Safety and Security is currently meeting with each principal to limit the number of entry points at each campus and harden the exterior access. A specific concern is the high school where they are working on a plan to narrow the number of entrances prior to the first bell of the day as well as after the first bell rings for those students parking in the back of the high school who leave for appointments, PALS, work programs, and CTE courses. Visitors to the high school will continue to enter through the secure front vestibule. All other campuses will be limited to one entrance for all visitors. Reducing the number of doors for entry via removal of hardware and additional signage is also part of the summer plan, as is fencing enhancement at several of the campuses.
First Response Training: Friendswood Police held a First Responders training at FHS this week. FISD personnel and administration were allowed to watch and be a part of this necessary and valuable training. All FPD officers will have gone through this training by the end of the week. We are so thankful for these officers who are serious about continuing their training and who are committed to the safety of our children.
Comprehensive Safety Training in August: We are also scheduling training for all staff, all substitutes, and contractors. This will be a comprehensive training on safety and responses provided by Erich Krieter before the start of school. Content for this training will be drawn from the Response Protocol provided by the Texas School Safety Center as well as the Run, Hide, Fight training.
Safe School Survey: Finally, I hope you received the needs assessment and safe school survey that was emailed out this week. We want to hear from you. We want to know what your opinions are about school safety and what you would feel comfortable with implementing over the next school year.
Social-Emotional Layer: At the end of the Spring, Diane Myers began the process of gathering a team of people together to review the Social Emotional Learning and Needs on our campuses. This is a very important layer of prevention of safety issues for our students. We are looking closely at counselors and needs in this area as well as training for staff, students, and parents. Utilizing outside resources for crisis needs is also another area of research for this team. Stay tuned for more on this layer as we work through the summer and fall.
Mustang Voices: We will continue to update you with valuable and relevant topics throughout the summer and school year. We are finalizing a date for a July Mustang Voices specific to school safety. Mustang Voices is the avenue we use to gather input from the community and share information. Stay tuned for that date.
Have a great summer. We will be sending another report out to you soon. Thanks for all you do for FISD and Go Mustangs!
Thad J. Roher
Superintendent of Friendswood ISD