Crisis, Communication, and Security a Top Priority for Greenwood Schools
Greenwood Public Schools has become synonymous with the term “Excellence in Education”. The school district recently received the “Every Student Succeeds” scores from the Arkansas Department of Education. These scores indicate a letter grade that represents school effectiveness, student success, and readiness levels. Five of the schools in the district received an “A” and one school received a “B+” rating. Extracurricular activities have garnered state championships in football, golf, volleyball, tennis, softball, and bowling in recent years. Music and fine art programs have received some of the top ratings in the state as well. The district became “Kindness Certified” through the Great Kindness Challenge this year and the district’s K-6 schools emphasize character building through the Leader in Me program.
In spite of the success of Greenwood Schools, the administration is incessantly looking at areas that need improvement: not for improvement sake, but for the good of the students and the community. In recent months, schools who had great reputations, much like Greenwood, have endured tragic events that have changed the lives of many forever. Our hearts and condolences go out to the most recent victims in Florida. Due to the evolving issues regarding violence in the schools, our district has taken proactive measures to ensure the safety of staff and students.
One of the most important factors in handling crisis is to create strong relationships with local, county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as fire and medical first responders. The district has not only cultivated relationships with Chief Will Dawson and his staff at the Greenwood Police Department, but with many other agencies such as Sebastian County Sheriff’s Department, Greenwood Fire Department and Sebastian County EMS. Collaborative professional trainings and conferences to discuss key issues are vital steps to meet the issues facing school districts today. In addition, Mr. Jim Caudle, a former agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and SWAT team leader, was hired in August to oversee the district facilities and security. Mr. Caudle is housed on campus and has worked diligently to evaluate the crisis plans for the district, collaborate with the building administrators and staff to improve their plans, hold crisis drills, and blueprint a response plan that will give all stakeholders some assurance in the event of a crisis. Mr. Caudle’s background and training are already proving valuable for the school district.
Increased police presence is another component of the district’s plan. The Greenwood Board of Education authorized Superintendent John Ciesla to work with Chief Will Dawson, and the City of Greenwood to add another full time School Resource Officer to the staff. The addition will ensure that a full time SRO will be on each campus in the district. The SRO’s will patrol the campus, interact with the staff and students, and will provide a quick response during crisis situations. Mr. Rick Lunsford is the newest addition to the SRO team at Greenwood Schools. Mr. Lunsford has served our country in the military, is a reserve police officer, and has worked with students at Greenwood High School as a paraprofessional for three years. Mr. Lunsford will start his training with the current SRO’s on Monday, March 12th and continue training this summer through the Greenwood Police Department.
A new point of emphasis for the district is to keep all interior classroom doors locked while classes are in session. Teachers will ensure that doors are locked during class times so that no time is lost during a lockdown situation. The school resource officers and building administration are following up by checking doors and reporting compliance or concerns. All buildings have security doors in place at the front of the building and require that visitors check in at the office. The district utilizes the “Hall Pass” system to run background checks on school visitors as they sign in to the buildings.
Some other key elements of district security and safety improvements are:
- Crisis response drills
- New ambulance points for quick response
- RAVE alert app for staff communication during a crisis
- Implementation of a welfare check system during a crisis
- Welfare check team formed at Central office
- Stop the Bleed Training for staff members to utilize in case of an accident or emergency
- New Communication systems that will push out text alerts, emails, and voice messages
- Reunification teams at each building trained to respond in times of crisis
Mr. Caudle has spent time with all staff members discussing run, hide, fight responses in a crisis situation and will continue to bring valuable training to our staff in the future. Although the district realizes that every crisis will present its own set of challenges of which we can never be fully prepared, it is our intent to give staff members and students as much preparation, training, and knowledge to add confidence in times of crisis, whether inside the school setting or in another venue.