By Tanna Friday
TRUSSVILLE — It has been just five days since the Santa Fe, Texas school shooting where at least eight people, and as many as 10 were killed.
On May 21, the Trussville City Schools board met to discuss many items on the agenda that evening including an update on school safety measures for the Trussville City Schools.
“Regretfully, there has been another tragedy in Texas,” said Superintendent Dr. Pattie Neil. “I just want reiterate that we are consistently looking at our school safety measures. In mind now, it is clearly a question about the safety measures in place to prevent intruders from coming into our schools. This is a different category than an internal student school shooter.”
Dr. Neil expressed that these two were completely different preventive measures and assured the board is always looking at both of them as a whole.
In the last meeting, Dr. Neil requested principals from all Trussville City Schools to submit at least two upgrades to their safety measures, if needed. Neill if each could provide at least two, either upgrades or something brand new, that would give the board ten projects to perform over the summer.
“The excess County Commission refinance money or the supplemental state allocation money that is already in place will be used to fund any of these projects,” said Neil.
From the lists submitted included cameras, intercoms, and key card access, all of which Neill says are one-time expenses.
“Our camera rotation is now starting,” said Neil. “We have grainy camera and new updated digital cameras. We just need to start a camera rotation like we do with our computers. One DVR holds 20 cameras, so we will start the 20 camera upgrade.”
Dr. Neil said that the only occurring expense would be the security guard position for Hewitt-Trussville High School.
“We reviewed the job description,” she said. “We have the job description on the table for 30 days to get points of information from anyone who would like to give points of information.”
Board President, Sid McNeal, asked Dr. Neill if the security guard position was discussed in the last SRO security meeting with the city.
“It was,” said Neill. “And you all asked that we bring it up at the safety meeting and to the police chief.”
Board member, Dr. Steve Ward, shared an update of the safety meeting with the board and administration.
“We met last Wednesday, May 16, and brought this up to our safety committee,” said Ward. “We have a new interim police chief, Captain Rush, who was also present in the safety meeting. We went over a little bit about what the security guard’s job duties were and the job’s expectations. The members were very much in favor of the idea.”
Ward said the security guard would report to and be supervised by the principal. This position would work along with the SRO, but not perform under an SRO.
“The question that was asked by the chief was if the security guard would be hired out of a private security system?” said Ward. “We said no. We would rather have our own person, school employee, and not hire from a private security.”
Ward said that the security guard’s job description accurately defined the roles and expectations of the board.
“The description covers the duties entailed, expectations, background and qualifications,” he said. “This is another set of eyes and I think this is something that the Trussville Police Department, Trussville City Council and Mayor are very much in favor of.”
Ward added that the members discussed the idea of adding a second SRO to the high school.
“I don’t know where the Council is with this matter, but we would like to have that person available to the high school,” he said. “I think the Council recognizes the need; and I hope that they will work on funding this position.”
The board said a security guard is necessary because of issues which have occurred at the high school. Issues discussed were occurring at the start of school, end of school, with traffic, and in a large area near the field house.
“To the extent that a second SRO can be provided at some point for the school would be great,” said McNeal. “The way the job description reads is that the security guard would mostly be an exterior school security personnel.”
Ward responded stating that both the SRO and the security guard would have opportunities to monitor the areas of concern.
“I believe that this would be a help to everyone,” said Ward. “Here again, that extra set of eyes in the parking lot observing activity.”
The job description, which is on the table to be acted upon over the summer, is for an unarmed security guard.
“They would not be the person to confront in a confrontation issue with the student, parent, or whomever might show up on campus,” said Ward. “But eventually, as they become more comfortable with students and cars, it will become second nature to notice any unfamiliar activity.”
McNeal said that this person would have the ability to engage students in the parking lot where, they thought, was important to the safety and security of the campus.
“We have to learn something every time one of these tragedies takes place,” said McNeal. “I think it is a little too early to learn lessons from the Sante Fe shooting, but there will be lessons. Engaging with students on the exterior is certainly better than engaging with students on the interior if you have someone that can be out there.”
Another concern Ward addressed was limiting entrances to the campuses.
“Yes you have limited entrances,” said Ward. “But you can’t limit the exits because you need to get kids out of the building in case something were to happen.”
According to the board, there are school officials stationed at every school entrance during arrival.
“Basically, we have pretty much three entrances to the middle school,” said Dr. Lisa Berry, Principal of Hewitt-Trussville Middle School. “We have carline, cafeteria, and the main office, which all have adequate supervision. We have appropriate personnel at each entrance. After students have arrived all of the exterior doors are locked.”
The middle school, Berry said, is in the process of re-configuring a set of doors that lead from the main office into school hallway. According to Berry, the doors will be reversed, instead opening into the main office.
“We would like to position that entrance with no access if needed,” she explained.
Principal Joy Tyner shared her concerns and requests to the board as well.
“We just want to be able to check identification before a person comes into the school,” said Tyner. “This upgrade would stop visitors from coming directly into Cahaba Elementary School’s main office. Similar to Magnolia Elementary School.”
The board concluded their discussion on the district’s security measures with pro-activeness and confidence.
“I feel good about where we are,” said board member Bill Roberts. “Like a lot of other things, we just want to be ahead of the game.”
“Our cameras are primarily for the purpose of identification in a setting where someone may have vandalized the school or done something inappropriate,” said McNeal. “Some of the analysis related in the Sante Fe shooting, I think, is going to go around in spots and the timeliness of the spots. Our cameras are DVR cameras that record for the purpose of review. The best we can do is have cameras properly positioned and upgraded to the best resolution for the purpose of securing the schools. We are still identifying suspicious situations at the time students arrive and the school officials who are at each of the entry points are the critical piece to that.”
In addition, Roberson asked Dr. Neill how the district will approach safety measures going forward.
“We have a review team and a required school-level team, which is massive,” said Neill. “Then we have our virtual Alabama, which is another fragment of that involves all schools.”
McNeal concluded that the board is ready to be equivalent or greater than best practice.
“The best practice in Alabama usually gets meted out in an uneven sort of way,” said McNeal. “There could be legislation, policy from the state department, there could be recommendations and then there is funding. So, hopefully all of that will continue to navigate forward. The fall is a period of time where our legislators work hard with colleagues to set legislation in plan for the next session. If there is a little bit of a lag than I think that this school safety issue will be really big.”
“Short of some kind of confrontational experience for every student every time they enter the schools, we are doing a lot to what we understand as best practice innovation,” he continues. “Right now, it sounds like we have qualified leaders in the system at every entrance for adjourning and arrival and lock down in a very timely manner. We are blessed to have a full-time SRO in every school all day. It is a good combination.”
In other matters, the Board approved:
- Accounts payable for April 2018;
- Payroll for April 2018;
- Financials for April 2018;
- Retreat Record and Board minutes for April 25, 2018;
- Youth Football Camp July 23-25 for the football stadium; Elite Passing Academy June 25-27 for the football stadium; HT Girls Basketball Youth Camp June 4-7 for Bryant Bank Arena; Park & Rec Youth Summer Basketball May 21- August 2 for HTHS gym; Boys Basketball Youth Camp July 9-11 for Bryant Bank arena; Boys Basketball Youth Husky Hoops July-January 21, 2019 for Bryant Bank arena; Girls Volleyball Skills Camp June 26-28 for Bryant Bank arena; SRT Training for Trussville Police June 13 at Cahaba Elementary;
- Blalock credit for job no. 17-28 in consideration for the portable classroom located at the soccer field – change order 17-28-16;
- Bid 18-05 for TCS stadium and sports complex for Turf, Tree and Shrub Chemical application for $4,496 effective June 1;
- Following field trips: HTHS softball team to Huntsville May 10-11; HTHS baseball team to Bob Jones May 11-12; HTHS SCA/FBLA to Six Flags over Georgia May 12; HTMS Cross Country to Oakville Indian Mounds October 5-6; HTHS softball to Montgomery for state championship May 15-18; HTHS baseball to Montgomery for state championship May 18-19;
- Administrative authority for Superintendent Pattie Neill to fill employment vacancies, accept resignations and retirements, transfer, and reassign employees effective May 22-August 20, 2018 in order to have personnel in place for the 2018-2019 school year. All actions will be listed on the following board personnel recommendations for approval;
- Right away agreement for baseball project to set a new power pole;
- Change order requests: Blalock 17-28-17, 17-28-05 Rev., 17-28-15 R1; Bennett 2 (credit), 3, 5, 6;
- GoGuardian via CDW-G for software;
- EDF 05-21-18-01 through 05-21-18-19;
- Placing the 2018-2019 Salary Schedule on the table effective July 1;
- Placing on the table the job description for Security Guard and amended job description for Technology Integration Specialist;
- Superintendent’s recommendations for personnel regarding personnel, supplements, and contracts;
- New Board President, Kathy Brown – filling former board president’s seat, Sid McNeal;
- New Board Vice-President, Stan Garrett; and
- New Board Secretary, Dr. Pattie Neill.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for June 11 at 6 p.m. There will be a work session prior to the meeting beginning at 4:30 p.m.