Supervisors discuss school safety

Published 6:16 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

School security, and how to make sure it’s effective, was the subject of a work session discussion Thursday by the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors. 

In the end, the Board wanted to enlist the help of a federal Homeland Security representative, based on a recommendation by Carrsville Supervisor Don Rosie, who has worked with the agency. 

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As the discussion evolved, Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice, who called for the safety task force in the first place, said the issues go beyond the schools to other public venues, such as The Smithfield Center and the fairgrounds. 

Rosie, who attended the initial task force meetings, said it was clear not everyone was on the “same page,” as emergency services and law enforcement had different priorities than school administrators. 

Rosie pointed to the failed $64,658 door lock initiative, where the security devices were disabled due to an order by the fire marshal. The door locks were part of an $820,000 request by the schools to beef up security in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting in February. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Next on the plan’s list is the purchase of a one-button security alert system, estimated to cost about $240,000. 

During the Board’s September meeting, it was decided that the Supervisors would oversee any future spending specific to that monetary request. 

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton said law enforcement and emergency services focuses on the response and aftermath, while the schools are geared to prevention. 

Rosie suggested the Homeland Security representative assess the schools and bring back a report to the Board of Supervisors. 

“Stop it before it happens. That needs to be our emphasis,” said Rosie. 

Grice wanted to go further.

“We’ve got to get over the concept of the fiefdom,” he said referring to the differing groups working on school security. Grice offered to be the “troll” under the bridge. 

Grice wants the task force, which the Board agrees needs to be “reset,” to come up with recommendations within the next four to five months. 

“Then they know what to spend. Otherwise, it’s a shotgun approach,” he said, adding that the Board of Supervisors isn’t to run the task force, but simply to participate. 

School safety plans

Isle of Wight County schools Executive Director of Administration and Operations Mark Mabey updated the School Board on the division’s school security plan at its September meeting.

Mabey said plans are completed at the beginning of each school year and are specific to each school. 

Mabey said the plan was to create a checklist of goals and objectives and bring it to the Board periodically throughout the year for its review. 

That way the Board can see what is being accomplished, as well as make comments and suggestions, Mabey said. 

The plan delves into how the school will handle certain situations and how it plans to meet state regulations. 

The school’s policy calls for the Board to evaluate the plan each year. 

After Mabey’s presentation, Board Chairperson Vicky Hulick read a prepared statement seeming to reference a Sept. 20 Board of Supervisors meeting where the Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton and the School Board were called out for the failed door lock initiative, as well as other criticisms. 

Hulick said she preferred to focus on the school division’s accomplishments, from the new Career and Technical Educational program, to the ongoing improvements to aging facilities. 

Hulick acknowledged the mistake about the door locks and in reference to unnamed individuals, said, ““Maybe they feel the need to insult others because it makes them feel better or puts them in a position of power.”

Hulick said she was sorry that people felt so negatively about the School Board and staff that they felt the need to “publicly express that insult.”  {/mprestriction}