Wednesday, March 26th, 2014
Coldwater BOE agrees to move ahead with school security plans
By Doug Drexler
COLDWATER - School board members Tuesday night supported superintendent Rich Seas' plans for security upgrades and asked him to begin implementation.
Seas during the board meeting/work session presented a series of new procedures and physical changes to improve security at the campus. The board agreed with his ideas but requested expenses such as bids for renovations get prior approval by the board.
Seas said everyone needs to realize dangerous situations can and do occur.
"I think it's a mind-set issue," he said. "We don't think that Newton, Conn., can happen."
Seas said securing building entrances is only part of the solution; he stressed making changes to how school employees approach the issue. He recommended that principals create a checklist of regular safety measures and a list of items that should be secured such as chemistry lab chemicals or scissors that could be used as weapons.
Seas also recommended that staff be trained how to handle people entering the building and asked them to become more involved and visible to ensure student safety. Having teachers in the hall between classes creates a positive interaction with students and could prevent negative consequences, he said.
Seas suggested the district reconsider its open lunch policy that allows high school students to leave the building. He recommended eliminating or significantly changing the policy.
"When the doors are left open, it's a breach" of security, Seas said.
The board four or five years ago discussed closing the lunch period but determined a lack of seating and other issues made it impractical. Administrators need to find answers to those problems, he said.
He also proposed teaching students self-defense in physical education or other classes and hiring a resource officer to enhance security. The latter idea would require the approval of the Coldwater Teachers Organization, which must be involved when new positions and/or work rules are created, Seas said.
Physical changes suggested by Seas include the addition of new web-linked security cameras. It's a high priority since many of the current 7-year-old cameras are outdated and some have failed, he said. He talked to a supplier who estimated the cost at $120,000 but competitive bidding could bring down the price.
Seas said the safety improvements could be paid with proceeds from a half-mill classroom facilities levy passed in 2002 and dedicated toward facilities maintenance. Treasurer Michelle Mawer said the levy collects about $50,000 per year and has a balance of about $600,000 set aside for major projects such as roof repair.
Board member Todd Bills said he supported many of Seas' suggestions and wanted them implemented as soon as possible. He recommended administrators begin the new training and Seas start the bidding process for building improvements.
High school principal Jason Hemmelgarn questioned whether administrators' plans required board approval. Board president Dan Rose said the board did not want to micro-manage the process but would need to approve major spending projects.
Board member Gary Hoying asked Hemmelgarn how the high school's recently implemented buzzer system was working.
Hemmelgarn responded the change was well-received.
Middle school principal David Kennedy said his secretary had concerns about proposed plans to add a window from the hallway into her office. The board earlier suggested steering visitors to the window to check in before being buzzed into the main part of the building.
He said secretary Linda Stalder told him she was concerned the window would expose her to a dangerous visitor. The window could also complicate the cramped office space, he added.
Bills said improvements to the office could be part of the new security plan.
In other business,
• Seas said the district will make up missed school days on April 17 and 21 and May 30, if Gov. John Kasich signs a bill approving the addition of four calamity days. The district already made up a calamity day on Feb. 14. Seas warned the district could still miss days due to fog in the spring.
• two speakers objected to comments made at the board meeting March 11 by retired Coldwater teacher Judy Bruns. She had voiced her opposition to the Ohio Education Association and the National Education Association, calling the unions far-left organizations opposed to traditional values and supportive of abortion rights and homosexual causes. She said her tax dollars should not support the unions.
Bob Miller, who retired after 32 years of teaching, said he was "distressed and disturbed" the board meeting was used to promote one person's agenda and beliefs. He said the union does not take any position on abortion, and he hoped the board was not supporting a homophobic agenda. He also said the money going to union dues was the teachers' not tax dollars.
Organization president Chris Miller expressed similar concerns.
"You have opened a door and you can't close it," Chris Miller said, adding the board meeting was not the proper forum for such issues.
Rose said the beginning of each board meeting is always dedicated to hearing concerns and ideas from the community.
• the board approved using a $1,000 NFL Foundation for High School Football Coach of the Week award to Chip Otten to purchase weight-lifting equipment.
• the board accepted the retirement of elementary library aide Diana Obringer.
• the board set substitute teacher pay at $80 per day, effective March 17. Board member Dan Rose abstained because the measure could affect a family member.
• the board approved Cory Klenke as a Level II substitute staff member, effective March 27, after executive session.
• the board held a nearly two-hour executive session to discuss contract negotiations but took no action.