LANSDALE — With the 2018-19 school year coming down to its final weeks, North Penn School District security staff are reporting on a busy year.
District staff gave the school board's Safe Schools Committee a report Tuesday night on their security statistics over the past school year, detailing the size and scope of their responsibilities.
"I thought it was important that we put something out for folks to view, that perhaps isn't confidential or isn't propriety knowledge to our safe schools operation," Coordinator of Emergency Management and Safe Schools Chris Doerr.
"We're very proud of the work of our security department," he said.
So far this school year, Doerr told the board, a total of 19 security department employees worked 2,700 scheduled security shifts, conducted 197 emergency drills including evacuations, lockdowns and shelters, and have written up a total of 1,047 reports on security incidents, among the district's seventeen schools.
"One of the numbers that pops out is the number of visitors that we screen through our schools every year: almost 30,000 folks screened at school entrances this year," he said.
Security staff have obtained over $334,000 in state and federal grant money for various security related initiatives, and Doerr and Superintendent Curt Dietrich outlined where some of that funding has gone. Last fall the district hired Virginia-based Sigma Threat Management Associates to develop a program of behavioral threat assessment, meant to help the district build capacity to identify and solve potential problems before they happen, and Dietrich said he was proud of their work so far: carrying out a strategic review, developing policies and programs, and training district staff.
"At the same time, they've been very complimentary of us, in North Penn. They get to see a lot of school districts across the county, so when they say some very complimentary things, that means a lot," Dietrich said.
Over the past year the district installed an additional 124 surveillance cameras across North Penn, with Doerr said now brings all buildings onto the same platform and programs, and Dietrich said have been a big help to local police.
"Over the years, the board has been very supportive of having cameras in place, and I continue to get compliments from law enforcement, when they come to North Penn, of the quality of the footage they are able to view," Dietrich said.
"The board has been excellent with providing cameras over the years, and it makes so much difference for us, to be able to have so many individual, state-of-the-art surveillance cameras. That is huge for us," he said.
Over the past year security staff have also worked to identify and select a new unified mass notification system that can be installed and streamlined across the district, and funds are included in the proposed 2019-20 budget to implement it across North Penn.
"Communication is very, very important, whether it be with our own teachers and students, or with their parents. That ability to communicate is going to be really huge for North Penn," Dietrich said.
Assistant Superintendent Todd Bauer said a similar upgrade to the public address system at North Penn High School has been a major improvement.
"At any given time, there's 4,000 people in that building, and to have a PA system that's fully functional is exciting," he said.
Staff have also implemented a state-mandated "Safe2Say Something" anonymous reporting system that lets students voice anonymous tips to district staff. Doerr and Bauer said the district has created a contact team and trained students in grades seven through twelve on how to do so, resulting in 76 tips so far since the program started in January.
"Almost all of them are meaningful. Some of them are silly, like, 'I don't like my homework assignment,' but in general they are meaningful tips that allow us to help children," Bauer said.
Dietrich added that Safe2Say has, at times, added extra time on the job for certain administrators, including himself, Bauer, Doerr, and Assistant Superintendent Jenna Rufo, depending on when the tips are submitted.
"We get texts day and night now, and it just speaks to, again, today's times with communication, and how tied you are to your jobs," he said.
"We all get these, and we have to act on them. We have to contact the principal, and that can rouse the principal, who may be wound down late at night, but here we are, calling late at night: ten o'clock, 11 o'clock at night, saying 'There's a concern here. We need to have you intervene.' But it's for the good of the kids, so we do it."
North Penn's Safe Schools Committee next meets at 6 p.m. on June 25 and the full school board next meets at 7:30 p.m. on June 10, both at the district Educational Services Center, 401 E. Hancock St. For more information visit www.NPenn.org.