School trustees are asked to make decisions ranging from operations to curriculum and policy formation. With thirty-five years of experience in facility management and construction, I have never professed to be a professional educator. To this position, I bring a business skill set along with a passion to better our community and increase educational opportunities for students and create positive work environments for faculty and staff. Each board member brings a skill set that when used together provides a perspective and expertise that betters the district.
As a grandparent, community member and a school trustee, the safety of students is important to me. This issue has been a top priority since I became a board member 2 years ago and much has been done to provide safe and secure schools. However, there is still much more to be done.
Securing our schools is an ongoing effort that takes deliberate action through preparation, training, and investment. There is no way to fully prepare for a crisis or emergency, but Cassia listens to experts for guidance. We have a tendency to believe that safety operations are only employed during extreme situations, but power outages, severe winter storms and random loose bulls (Burley High School 2 years ago) utilize protocols and procedures designed to keep students safe. Safety and security is an everyday event.
In spite of many concentrated efforts, there is an issue that is not easily solved. We have facility needs that will take investment. This isn’t about growing the number of facilities, it is about what we need to do to address basic comfort levels which impact overall security. It’s frustrating to me, to see school doors propped open by rocks or trash cans. We have invested and continue to invest in keyless entries and cameras. Because it’s unreasonable to expect that our administrators will stand at doors to monitor every patron entrance, we employ technology to help. However, technology doesn’t solve the problem which causes doors and windows to be left opened. The majority of our schools lack proper ventilation systems. Hot classrooms and inefficient systems can exacerbate conditions in classrooms and negatively impact the learning environment.
Some may view the comfort factor for students and teachers as an unnecessary extra. When comfort is put in the context of improving the environment to maximize student safety and learning, I find it an easy argument to support. By support, I am specifically speaking of the need to increase our facility safety investments. In my opinion, our first priorities include: proper fencing around the perimeters of our schools and playgrounds, appropriate and adequate playground equipment, and keeping all exterior doors closed and locked. In regard to school interiors we need adequate temperature control. That means air conditioning. When we improve the environment, we elevate the learning atmosphere all around.
There are many unknown dangers facing our students that are beyond our ability to control. And so we work to be prepared. As a trustee, it’s hard for me to ignore the many known dangers facing our students and teachers every day that are within our control.
We live in a growing community that values education. This is a problem that we must solve as a community. There will be many ideas on how to solve this issue. And when the inevitable disagreement arises, I distinguish between a difference of opinion and personal relationships. As the Cassia School Board explores safety solutions with limited resources, we must recognize that safety is a broader and more complex issue than simply locking doors. This isn’t about scare tactics and manipulation, it’s about giving students our best efforts and best investments.