LEWISBURG — Tri-County North Local Schools held a Town Hall Safety Meeting on Thursday, Nov. 8.
Superintendent Bill Derringer introduced a panel made up of staff and consultants who helped answer any public questions. The panelists included: High School Principal Kristen Mills, Middle School Principal Joe Hoelzle, Elementary Principal Joe Finkbine, Buildings and Grounds/Transportation Supervisor Denny Dyer, Lewisburg Police Chief Rick McGee, and TCN School Resource Officer (SRO) Dillon Gilbert.
Derringer began by stating he would not be discussing guns in schools other than in the hands of law enforcement.
“We are not against guns in schools, we just want them in the hands of law enforcement. We have a School Resource Officer and Chief McGee, both of them carry their guns with them. Officer Gilbert is in the school pretty much every minute that we have kids in session and Chief McGee is in the building about half the time. We feel like we have a pretty good presence from law enforcement in the building on a daily basis,” he said.
“Our teachers go through training to be good teachers, they go through instructional methods and different strategies,” he continued. “We want them to focus on being good teachers. Our law enforcement go through training on re-certification, they go to the range and practice their shooting – they practice things to be good law enforcement officers. We’re hoping to get the best of both worlds and that is the approach we’ve taken at Tri-County North with guns in schools.
“With that being said, if I split the room in half and asked what you guys think about having teachers and administrators with guns, half of you would say that is a good idea and half would say it’s a horrible idea. That is where our country is right now. I wanted to get that on the table and address it before we start.”
Regarding school safety updates for the district, Derringer focused on the five following subjects: mental health, employee training, school procedures, facility upgrades, and the new SRO.
For the first time, the district has a full-time mental health therapist in the building five days a week. There has also been additional training for teachers this February on suicide prevention and signs and symptoms of suicide.
All teachers are required to complete five online training modules this fall covering child abuse and human trafficking, depression and suicide prevention, bullying prevention, prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders in students, and building safe and supportive school environment.
The district has also focused one of their two school improvement goals on improving positive school climate. There are two new programs this year to involve social media in that: Go Guardian and Social Sentinel.
Go Guardian is designed to specifically work on their network, especially their Chromebooks. Social Sentinel is designed to work on social media such as Facebook. These programs help to catch threats to the district or students (including threats students make against themselves) before they happen. Administrators receive notifications of these threats and can help the students get into mental health counseling.
For employee training, the district has provided Active Shooter training and ALICE training for all teachers over the past couple of years. This fall, TCN has included the training for all cooks and custodians, as well as a four-hour training for all bus drivers in the county on Columbus Day. The Lewisburg Police Department has held some of its Active Shooter situations in the building.
The district is required by the state to submit its Emergency Operations Plan each July. It is signed by the district’s local emergency responders. This plan is provided to each employee of the district before school starts each year and then the principals have a discussion with their teachers at the opening day meetings.
Last year, the district had to put this plan into action due to a threat in the building. Officials evacuated the building and brought in bomb dogs. The district has access to dogs from Dayton Airport, Miami University, Montgomery County, Butler County, and other resources as needed.
The school also utilizes its One Call System as well as social media to keep parents informed of what is happening during a crisis situation.
Facility Upgrades started several years ago, when the district decided to lock all doors and require visitors to enter through the Main Entrance Door #2 and state their reasond for entering the building. Just this summer, the district began working on replacing door locks on all of the gyms, upgrading the security camera system, fixing the PA system in the cafeteria and gymnasium, and adding additional lighting to the exterior the building.
Derringer also introduced SRO Gilbert, who is working on building a relationship with the students of the school, as well as patrolling and maintaining a safe environment.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH