On January 6, 2013, White Oak ISD hosted a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the safety and security of the students, faculty and staff. This meeting was prompted by, at that time, the latest school shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. The meeting was attended by about 250-275 concerned citizens and the district presented the positive attributes of our school district and community that worked together to form a safe instructional environment for our students.
Without being too repetitive, the discussion covered the training and visibility of our staff whenever our students are in transition, upgrades/purchases of equipment to increase security and the vitally important role our first responders play in the process of keeping our students safe. We had representatives from every first responder agency in attendance from the city and Gregg County level. There was a great deal of conversation about the positive relationship the school district has with these professionals and the rapid response we receive every time one or more of these agencies are called to aid the district.
It is my belief that the meeting was successful in presenting the facts about WOISD’s plan to ensure the safety, security and positive instructional environment for all involved. But the conversation did not stop there. We also assured our stakeholders that we would continue to look for best practices and methods of improving the process for our students. So what has taken place over the last two years to make good on that assurance?
Since January 6, 2013, White Oak ISD has invested close to $350,000 in security upgrades, gone through two safety audits that are reviewed at the state level and created a plan with the assistance of new technology to connect teachers, administrators and first responders in real time during a crisis. Listed below are some of the improvements/additions made during the timeline discussed;
- Almost every exterior door in the district was either replaced or retooled as an exit only door or electronic entry only. This was done to control the flow of traffic into each building and enhance the district’s ability to keep up with who is visiting each campus.
- Upgraded and increased the number of security cameras at every facility both inside and out. These cameras are high resolution equipped with night vision and digitally recorded by date and time for easy review. The system can be monitored onsite or remotely on a desktop, laptop or tablet computer.
- New entrance and receiving areas have been and are being installed at the Intermediate, Middle School and High School campuses. This improvement not only creates a safe and controlled visitor entrance area but provides the added benefit of allowing our campus leadership team o focus on instructional matters due to less distractions and interruptions answering “the buzzer” connected to the electronically controlled entrance.
- The campus entrance areas have been upgraded to laminate glass, which is stronger and more difficult to break through.
- Beginning in the fall of 2015, the district will activate the CrisisGo app installed on all teacher devices supplied by the district. This app allows teachers, administrators and first responders to access a tremendous amount of useful data during an emergency situation. The application makes student class rosters, parent contacts and communication alerts possible for district staff. First responders are instantly notified when an alert goes out and the app provides them with contact numbers and digital maps of all the district facilities. These are just the highlights of a wide range of features provided by CrisisGo.
- Additionally, we continue to practice, upgrade and evaluate our safety procedures for intruder, fire, weather and disaster protocols.
It is safe to say the district has not rested on the plans of the past to take care of our students both now and in the future. With that being said, I want to restate something I said at the close of the meeting in 2013. No safety and security plan is perfect and/or fool proof. Evil exists in the world and it exists in White Oak, Texas. It is not my intention to convince you there is no way harm can come to our students, faculty and staff. The purpose of all that we do is to mitigate that possibility to the very best of our ability. The safety of the student population at White Oak ISD is the top priority of the faculty, staff and board members in this district. The safety of over 1400 students and 180 employees is the top priority for me personally and professionally as this great learning institution’s superintendent.
The ultimate purpose of this document is to assure each of you that there is a plan in place at White Oak ISD. The threats that could affect us are discussed, researched and addressed. But most importantly, we do not live or work in a climate of fear. We believe in our students, our staff, our leadership team and first responders, knowing that each of these groups will answer the call when/if a crisis presents itself. Thank you for your time and attention. I am truly blessed to live in this community and work with the outstanding people that make WOISD a very special place.