Delaware School Safety Should Never Be A Competitive Process Danny Short!!!!

Grants.  Love ’em or hate ’em, but they exist.  This is how I see competitive grants- they are temporary fixes that give short-term funding for long-term issues.  What invariably happens is the grant runs out and local school districts or charters wind up flipping the bill or, rarely, the funding becomes a part of state code for all schools.  For State Rep. Danny Short and his House Bill #335, he wants to make school safety funding a competitive process.

This Act establishes the Delaware School Safety and Security Fund to allow eligible public schools to compete for grant awards to partially or fully fund projects intended to improve school safety or security. The Department of Education shall administer the competitive grant program. This Act further requires all funding to be awarded by a five-member committee consisting of representatives from the Department of Education, Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Office of Management and Budget, the Governor’s office, and the Delaware Association of School Administrators. Said committee shall meet no later than thirty days after the effective date of this Act to develop rules and regulations necessary to carry out the provisions of this Section. Awards granted under this Section shall be limited to a maximum of $50,000 per school, with priority given to applications addressing a current unresolved safety or security issue, or an issue which would significantly improve the safety and security of the public school relative to the size of the investment.

Rep. Short, in grant applications there will always be winners and losers.  I hardly think school safety should depend on who can write the best grant applications.  I won’t pretend to know the solutions to school safety but I can pretty much guarantee you this is NOT the answer.  School safety and the fear of another Parkland, Columbine, or Sandy Hook are very big concerns.  But we need to approach these issues with common sense and not just go with the first thing that comes to mind.  We talk about equity in schools all the time here in Delaware.  Sometimes grants do help schools with the highest needs, but when it comes to school safety, a dangerous situation can happen at any school at any time.

For the record, I do not think arming teachers is a solution either.  They have enough on their plate already.  I think the biggest thing we can do is be proactive with students that seem to be missing out on resources they desperately need.  With the shooter in Florida, there were obvious red flags and warning signs all over the place.  Things could have been done on multiple levels to help this kid.  The actions of the School Resource Officers assigned to the school were negligent at best.

We need to approach these issues with caution, not haste.  Nobody wants another situation like this to ever happen again.  That is what we can all agree on.  But the flurry of legislation going back and forth over this issue is happening too fast.  Yes, action needs to happen.  But let’s do it with common sense.  Just my two cents!

Newark Charter School’s Greg Meece On What NCS Is Doing For School Safety

A few days ago I put up a post about an alleged lack of intruder drills at Newark Charter School.  A few parents approached me and were very concerned.  Many denied the school never conducted these drills.  As such, I will be checking with schools in the future when parents come to me about these type of things.

Greg Meece from NCS issued a letter to parents about what both locations of Newark Charter have done to promote school safety:

Dear NCS Community:
Like all of you, I was deeply saddened to watch the news last week and see another tragic school shooting.  Our hearts go out to the community of that Florida high school for such a senseless and devastating loss of life.  As we grieve for the families of the students and teachers who lost their lives, we begin to think about the safety of our own school community.  I thought it would be comforting to share with you some of the things we at Newark Charter School have done, and will continue to do, to provide the best safety and security we can.
Our school has been fully compliant with the Comprehensive School Safety Omnibus Safety Act since its inception.  We are proud that we recently received a special award from the Department of Homeland Security to recognize our school being in 100% compliance with Delaware’s Omnibus School Safety Act. To be compliant, schools are required to:
  • Have a Comprehensive School Safety Plan (CCSP) that aligns with the Delaware Department of Homeland Security requirements;
  • The school’s CCSP, including rally points, building plans and other campus-specific information  is maintained on a secured server (Emergency Response Information Portal) that can be accessed by first responders;
  • We conduct monthly drills including but not limited to: fire dills/heightened security drills/bus evacuation drills, etc.;
  • We conduct at least two intruder/lockdown drills each school year;
  • We conduct at least two table top exercises (walk-through of Emergency Action Plans) each School Year).
We have upgraded our facilities and resources to protect our students.  For example, we reinforced key windows and doors, making them more resilient to forced entry and, in some cases, making them shatter-proof if hit by bullets.
We established a single point of entry in each of our three buildings, including lock-out systems that require either a school security badge (which all staff members are required to display at all times) or having an office staff member permit entrance to the school hallways by activating the door lock buzzer system.  This, of course, is only after proper identification is given or when we know the visitor and their purpose.  Visitors, then, receive badges as well.
We installed cameras in main entrances to monitor those entering and leaving.  We are currently adding approximately a dozen internal cameras as well.
This year, we marked all the outside classroom and office windows of our schools with numbers corresponding to the room numbers.  This is designed to aid first responders when they arrive on campus.
There has been an effort to pass legislation in Delaware that would require classroom door locks at the state’s public schools to be lockable from both inside and outside the room.  All Newark Charter School classroom already meet this goal.
All administrators, custodians, secretaries, counselors and other key staff members carry two-way radios.
We have a great partnership with the local police force.  For example, we allow the Newark Police Department SWAT team as well as State of Delaware law enforcement to use our buildings and grounds for their drills and trainings.  For many years, Newark Charter School has been used for police K-9 trainings at night.  Recently, we contracted with the City of Newark Police Department to provide ALICE training.
ALICE training has been used locally, including in Cecil County School District, with great results. The ALICE instructors provide interested businesses, schools, churches, etc., with active shooter/threat response training. Newark Charter School was able to help underwrite the costs associated with training the Newark Police Department officers so that they, in turn, can provide ALICE training to our school and to others as often as necessary.
We meet with our staff at the beginning of each year to go over our safety plans and to make sure everyone knows what to do.  Our students are amazing about knowing and practicing what to do.  I can’t rave enough about how smoothly they make our drills work.
Recently, we had a representative from Sandy Hook Promise present the “Start with Hello” and “Say Something” programs to our students. Both of these age-appropriate programs provide strategies for students to recognize and assist students who may be struggling as another strategy for preventing school violence. This compliments our long-standing anti-bullying efforts.
I wish I could push a magic button to make school violence no more, but the reality is that we have to work together and to be open to change when it is necessary.  I hope our nation’s leaders listen to our families and to the students.  The recent Florida incident requires that we continue to evaluate and update our plans and practices.  It requires time and resources, but I know you agree with me when I say that the safety and security of our students and staff is priority number one.

Sincerely,

Greg Meece
School Director

Thank you Greg Meece for getting this information out.  When it comes to school safety, there should be NO restrictions on keeping children safe.  I’m glad your schools are doing all they can.

Newark Charter School Unprepared For Intruders Since They Aren’t Complying With The Law

House Bill 340, signed by Governor Markell in 2014, demands public schools do at least two intruder/lockdown drills a school year.  But Newark Charter School hasn’t had one this school year or last school year according to sources.  Most schools that have these type of drills tell parents ahead of time.  My own son’s school has.  I’m not sure why Newark Charter thinks they don’t have to conduct these drills.

In the wake of the shooting in Florida last week that caused a former student to go on a rampage and slaughter 17 innocent lives, it is more imperative than ever that our schools are prepared for these type of scenarios.  Delaware’s law concerning these drills is part of the Omnibus School Safety Act.  Schools are required to report these drills to the Delaware Department of Homeland Security.  Do we now need a section of their website with a checklist of each school that complied with the law?  Sounds like it.  What are the ramifications for not reporting or conducting these drills?  Like most in Delaware, probably a phone call.  Sorry, NCS doesn’t get a pass on this no matter how “great” their test scores are!