Weatherford Democrat

March 26, 2013

Stepping up security at Aledo ISD

'panic buttons,' shooter training planned


Weatherford Democrat

ALEDO — By JUDY SHERIDAN

Active shooter training for school police officers, the installation of campus “panic buttons” and a student Crime Stoppers program are all coming to Aledo ISD soon, according to a security report presented to trustees last week by Kathy Allen, executive director of curriculum and chair of a 15-member safety committee.

Allen outlined Aledo ISD’s past, present and future safety initiatives as part of a comprehensive report that also covered resources, requirements, standards, practices, partnerships and training.

She began with district initiatives dating from October 2011, which included group crisis intervention training and building emergency operations plans into an electronic format, and then moved on to initiating plans for a more secure high school entry — now in progress — and employing full-time and part-time police officers.

Allen said new crisis intervention recovery teams — who help restore the learning environment after a crisis event — were used effectively soon after they were established.

 “They got started in October of 2011-12, and were brought to the district by lead counselor Scott Kessel,” she said. “It was great timing because in December we had that fatal car accident, and we were able to put those plans into place.”

The two new police officers were hired in February, two months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Connecticut.

They have now been assigned to schools and coverage areas, along with other campus police: Lt. Tim Harper to Aledo High School and the Learning Center; Police Chief Chawn Gilliland to Daniel Ninth Grade campus and McCall Elementary School; Officer Shelly Huffman to Aledo Middle School and Vandagriff Elementary; Officer Wes Cummins to McAnally Intermediate and Stuard Elementary; and Officer Tom Kelly to Coder Elementary, with Officer Stephanie Alvarez roving and assigned to night events.

Chris Morrison, who works in technology, is a reserve police officer as well.

Superintendent Dan Manning, recently attending a meeting at Stuard Elementary, said Cummins, the new full-time officer who is based there, is getting a warm welcome.

“Officer Cummins was formally introduced to the staff, and they cheered, and he mentioned he had met many of the staff and was already getting cookies from parents as they were dropping their children off in the morning,” Manning said.

“Stuard is our southernmost campus, the furthest away, and there is a great sense of camaraderie and relief for the staff and the parents out there.”

Another upgrade is the recent implementation of security access at the Central Administration Building.

In April, Allen said, Chief Gilliland will give a report to the board about Crime Stoppers and how he is going through Parker County to put the program in place.

“Crime Stoppers is a program where kids can either electronically — or by making a phone call — report a potential crime or something that has happened,” she said, “and that notice will be sent to Chief Gilliland or Lt. Harper.”

“They will give the information to administrators, so they can respond immediately, and the kids get a reward from the Crime Stoppers program if it helps solve or prevent a crime. It’s something we’re really excited about coming online.”

Another safety boost, Allen said, is the creation of standardized safety folders that will be posted in classrooms, giving staff and substitutes easily accessible information on safety drills.

Other changes are slated for summer.

“This summer we’re hoping to install panic buttons,” Allen said. “They are for times like arrival time at school, when there are multiple doors that kids and parents can enter. If we have a situation where we have to do an immediate lock down, all we have to do is push a button, and it overrides our door system and locks all our doors automatically.”

Better access control for the rock gym at Vandagriff Elementary and securing ”go-bags” for each campus with basic emergency tools are also on the summer agenda.

Active shooter training, involving AISD PD, local agencies and AISD administrators, is planned for June 10-12, Allen said. Rubber bullets might be fired during the mock-up event, she said, and administrators could assume student roles.

Board President Bobby Rigues remarked on a Texas Association of School Board session he attended with Allen and Gilliland March 1, entitled, “Practical considerations after the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting.”

“I think the greatest take away I came away with is how wide and how deep the issue really is,” he said. “It’s a very complex issue with more questions than answers ... an ongoing issue that is all new territory for school districts across the state.”