PCSS School Safety and Security -- Director's Letter -- February 23, 2018

PCSS School Safety and Security -- Director's Letter -- February 23, 2018

Friday, February 23, 2018

Parents, students, faculty, and staff members of the Putnam County School System Community:

Like many of you, I currently have a child (son, youngest of three children) attending a school in our school system. I also have a wife that is a teacher at one of our schools and many dear friends with children in our schools. Needless to say, the most recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida, has caused me (like many) to go through a chain of emotions that include grief, anger, fear, and response. Trying to make sense of such a horrific act perpetrated by a sick, cowardice individual can be overwhelming at times. I want to assure all citizens in our community, that we have been involved in ongoing preparation to both prevent and respond to a violent situation in our schools and on our campuses. Our focus on school safety and all of the precious lives that are in our schools (students, teachers, staff, and visitors) each day is on the forefront of our daily planning and actions as well as our long range planning and future actions.

As we continue to follow our established protocols for the planning and preparations of a crisis/emergency in our schools, we are also actively involved in reviewing our school, district, and community plans for any opportunity to enhance our prevention and response efforts. Our planning and support teams not only involve our school and district personnel, we are routinely engaged with local and regional law enforcement officers, emergency responders (Fire and EMS), as well as state agencies. We absolutely believe that we are not immune to the possible threat of a violent episode endangering the lives of our students, teachers, staff, and visitors. With such a reality in our minds, we have made ongoing threat assessments accompanied with planning and training an essential part of our actions.

We will deliberately explore new ideas to improve our existing protocols that will include improvements in our threat assessment processes as well as our training practices. Most immediately, we will begin concerted efforts to increase awareness of our established efforts to ensure that our students, parents, and community is confident in the seriousness in which we approach safety and security in our schools. The scheduling and communication of engagement meetings will be initiated at the school-level with direct support from the district. Upon the finalization of setting dates and time for each school-level event, communications will be initiated.

For the past twelve years, the Putnam County School System has been an active participant in the Putnam County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). Part of this process has included developing comprehensive safety plans for each school in the Putnam County School System. Approximately five years ago as an extension of the LEPC, school system administrators and leaders from the Cookeville Police and Fire Departments, Putnam County 911 Center, Putnam County EMS, Putnam County EMA, area Fire Departments, Putnam County Sheriff's Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol, and leaders from our municipal police departments formed a School Emergency Response Team (SERT) Advisory Committee. The SERT advisory committee continues to meet on a monthly basis to review and evaluate school safety plans and advise schools on current best practices. This committee has worked with administrators and teachers in every Putnam County School System school to create and sustain a School Emergency Response Team (SERT) at each school. School SERT teams review the comprehensive, all hazards, plan at their school on an annual basis. School level SERT teams meet on a monthly basis to review and evaluate their school's safety plans. In addition to reviewing plans, SERT teams assist school administrators in conducting training exercises with faculty on an annual basis for a variety of safety response situations.

Tennessee requires that all schools complete a fire drill within the first thirty days of school. During the school year, the following drills are then required: a fire drill on a monthly basis, an armed intruder drill in conjunction with local law enforcement, one AED/CPR drill and three other drills which could include a severe weather drill, earthquake, or any other emergency drill at the discretion of the school on an annual basis. Logs must be kept when schools perform these response drills. The completed logs confirming the required drills were conducted are then submitted to the Putnam County Board of Education and then the State Department of Education on an annual basis.

In addition to required drills, administrators from the Putnam County School System, Putnam County Sheriff's Department, Cookeville Police Department, and Algood Police Department have completed training to become certified trainers in the ALICE model for responding to active aggressor situations. ALICE is a nationally recognized protocol providing preparation and a plan for individuals and organizations on how to more proactively handle the threat of an aggressive intruder or active shooter event. Our certified trainers have since trained school-level administrators and teachers at all Putnam County School System schools to respond to active aggressor situations using the ALICE model of response. In addition to training our SERT members, faculty, and staff, we have also recently begun efforts to include students in the training, to the extent appropriate.

It is heartbreaking and beyond comprehension that we must train our teachers and students to be able to respond to situations that should never occur in our society. While we will continue to prepare and train our staff and students to respond to active aggressor situations, we hope and pray and that no circumstance will arise requiring the use of this training in our school system. However, we are resolute in our belief that preparations for extreme scenarios are necessary and essential for both prevention and response.

In the near future, we will be initiating opportunities to allow parents to meet with school and school system leaders to discuss the safety of our students, share our preparation strategies, and discuss ideas to keep all Putnam County schools safe and secure. I encourage you to participate in these focused discussions and to always communicate with your child's principal about any safety concerns you have.

Honored with the responsibility for educating our students, we are committed to creating the safest and most productive learning environment for all of our students along with the educators that serve them. We truly believe that it takes involvement from everyone in our community to make that happen. I look forward to experiencing the positive impact of our community working together focused on the best solutions possible.

Sincerely,

Jerry S. Boyd
Superintendent
Putnam County School System

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