Safety & security in our schools

Posted by Dr. Mark Holodick at 12/18/2015

Dear BSD Community,

This blog post relates to something that is always at the forefront of my mind.  Unfortunately, in today's society, this topic is not only on my mind but on the minds of many.   With the most recent threats directed at Los Angeles and New York City schools earlier this week (both of which turned out to be a hoax), and with a similar prank call at Springer Middle School earlier today, I thought it was important and relevant to put my thoughts into words.  Therefore, I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about school safety.  

This is not something we communicate about regularly, for good reason.  Security systems and procedures are actually much more effective if they are not publicized.  The less detail we give out, the safer our students and staff are.  However, I am highly aware that families want to be reassured that their children are as safe as possible when they are in our care.  Believe me, nothing is more important to me personally and professionally than the safety of our District’s people.

Safety starts the moment a student comes into our care whether on a school bus, in a car line, or through the front door.  Security must encompass not only the school day, but also all after-school programs, athletics, play rehearsals, marching band practice, and the other myriad of activities that take place on our grounds and in our buildings.  Security and safety start with positive learning environments where all staff are highly trained and all students feel nurtured, welcomed, and respected.  We must then go on to ensure there are specific procedures in place to handle unwelcome visitors or threatening phone calls (even if they are deemed to be non-credible), state-of-the-art systems containing many layers of additional protection, and regular training for all employees and employee groups.

At the end of the day, please know that ALL of us in BSD are incredibly committed to this work.  I am thankful for the level of commitment shown by every staff member I encounter - thankful as not only the superintendent but also as the father of three daughters who attend Brandywine schools.

I am also grateful to the dedicated community members who serve on the District’s Maintenance Advisory Committee, working very closely with Assistant Superintendent Dorrell Green and Facilities Supervisor John Read to make recommendations regarding safety and security at all buildings.  With their support, we made critical upgrades to Harlan Elementary School and Concord High School this past summer, ensuring their entries are up to our high standards.  The committee also lent its support to the District as we applied for and received a Certificate of Necessity from the State for work to be done at Carrcroft Elementary.

With nearly 11,000 students and more than 1,700 staff, it is inevitable that an emergency situation may arise from time to time.  When it does, the most important thing your child can do is to follow the instructions and directions of adults – teachers, nurses, bus drivers, administrators, paraprofessionals, etc.  All of us are trained and must be respected as the authority figures in the situation in order to keep everyone safe and accounted for.   Please reinforce that message with your children.  You can also assist us by trusting that we are doing everything we can to respond to a situation: following protocols to keep students and staff safe, investigating the situation, cooperating with law enforcement as appropriate, and returning to a normal school day as quickly and efficiently as possible.  All of that takes time, but the number one priority is to keep our people safe.  In this day and age of instant notifications, parents may wish to be informed sooner than we can do it.  It simply takes time to vet a situation so that we can relay the most accurate information.  We’d much rather delay a few minutes and give you clear and complete information than rush and only tell half the story – or worse, provide incorrect or misleading information. 

If recent events around the world are an indicator, this topic will remain relevant for years to come.  We will remain committed to it.  We will continue to revisit and refine procedures, attend meetings and trainings with partners in education and law enforcement, plan, drill, and communicate.  You have my word on that.

Sincerely,

Mark A. Holodick, Ed.D.
Superintendent