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Chapter 6
Operations

This chapter reviews the food service, transportation, facilities and security of operations Venus Independent School District (VISD) in the following sections:

  1. Food Service
  2. Transportation
  3. Facilities Use and Maintenance
  4. Safety and Security


D. SAFETY AND SECURITY

School districts must provide a safe and secure environment for their staff and students. Effective school districts develop policies, procedures and programs to address crisis contingencies, facility safety and violence prevention. Failure to adequately address any one of these areas weakens the safety and security of the school district.

School safety and security have become important issues at the national, state and local levels. Media coverage has heightened the school safety concerns of parents, teachers, school administrators and the public. Staff and students should test the effectiveness of a district’s emergency plan until responses become automatic and consistent.

Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe School—published by the U.S. Department of Education in 1998—notes that crisis intervention plans should include the following:

  • Training for teachers and staff in a variety of skills ranging from dealing with escalating classroom situations to responding to a serious crisis;
  • Reference to district or state procedures. Many states now have recommended crisis intervention manuals available to their local education agencies and schools;
  • Involvement of community agencies, including police, fire and rescue, as well as hospital, health, social welfare and mental health services. The faith community, juvenile justice and related family support systems also have been successfully included in such team plans; and
  • Provision for the core team to meet regularly to identify potentially troubled or violent students and situations that may be dangerous.

Schools in Texas practice fire drill procedures routinely and should practice responding to the presence of firearms and other weapons, severe threats of violence, hostage situations and other acts of terror. Any crisis commonly precipitates confusion that can disrupt even the most carefully written plan. Practice leads to automatic, orderly and rational responses.


FINDING

In October 2001, VISD and the City of Venus, including the fire and police departments, created a comprehensive Emergency Procedures Manual. The two entities identified those factors they believe will be common to any given event and developed a manual that is the accepted guide for district employees when dealing with crisis situations. This manual assigns responsibility—at both school and district levels—and provides a step-by-step response to different events. All district faculty have copies of this manual. Venus fire and police managers also have copies of the manual.

One of the first responses of those involved in a disaster is to report the event to public safety officials. This is commonly accomplished through the 911 phone systems. VISD assigned safety and security of the district to the director for Operations, Maintenance and Transportations. District administrators and the maintenance crews have two-way radios. These two-way radios are on the same frequency as the Venus police department. District employees immediately alert police officers and the fire department to any problems within the district; the city’s police and fire department train their crews to respond appropriately to events. The crisis management plan provides a methodology for district staff to deal with natural or operational situations that can occur in the district. The plan includes the following areas:

  • threatening statements and actions on campus;
  • bomb threats;
  • bomb threats checklist;
  • assault of a student on campus;
  • protest activity;
  • contagious disease;
  • stranger or irate person on campus;
  • cult activity;
  • violent behavior of a student;
  • abduction;
  • gang violence;
  • off-campus death;
  • declaration of war or national incident;
  • school bus accident with injuries;
  • accidents with severe injuries;
  • death at school;
  • environmental hazard;
  • explosion;
  • fire;
  • plane crash into building;
  • drive-by shooting;
  • hostages;
  • sniper gunfire;
  • suicide attempt at school;
  • suicide threat;
  • crisis management checklist for counselors; and
  • crisis management checklist for principals.

The district designated evacuation sites for each school and includes a list of emergency telephone numbers in the emergency procedures manual. The emergency procedures manual also contains a diagram of each school with room numbers.

In addition to the school Emergency Procedures Manual, the district has prepared and distributed to all district employees a Critical Incident Plan Flip Chart that complements the manual. The flip chart provides quick access to key phone numbers and step-by-step instructions for critical incidents. VISD also provides in-service staff development on the critical incident plan to employees at the beginning of the year.


COMMENDATION


VISD has developed a comprehensive emergency procedures manual with the cooperation of the City of Venus that includes an accompanying flip chart and staff development activities.


FINDING

VISD has established a committee to review and update its Emergency Procedures Manual and Critical Incident Plan annually. This committee is made up of the following representatives:

  • Venus Police chief;
  • Venus Fire chief;
  • prison warden;
  • school administration;
  • director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation;
  • coordinator of Curriculum and Special Programs;
  • Johnson County sheriff;
  • school resource officer;
  • counselors;
  • district nurse;
  • parents;
  • community representatives; and
  • business and city representatives.

District staff recognized the need to develop a community-wide advisory committee that included members from the law enforcement department, fire department, community and district to provide input and exchange ideas on how to improve the emergency procedures after a critical incident the previous year. The committee meets annually. Good safety practices in today’s environment call for each school district and its campuses to develop crisis management plans with the help of a team of specialists who represent a broad spectrum of the school community.


COMMENDATION


VISD established a community-wide safety committee that includes members from the law enforcement department, fire department, community members and district staff to provide input, skills and resources to improve the VISD Emergency Procedures Manual and Critical Incident Plan on a continual basis.


FINDING

VISD does not have a written agreement with the Venus Police Department that identifies services the department will provide to the district. The district does not have its own police force and depends on area law enforcement to provide security services and protection for its schools. The district’s emergency communication two-way radio system is on the same frequency as the Venus Police Department. The district relies on the officers to patrol and walk the campuses at night for security and loss prevention. District staff stated the high school buildings were secure without the alarm system set at night because of the patrols. The district also contracts with off-duty officers for extracurricular activities as needed. Although the director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation said the relationship with the Venus Police Department is a good one, there is no agreement in writing that specifically describes what services the Police Department is expected or is willing to provide to the district.

The district does have an agreement with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office for one student resource officer (SRO) through a grant. The SRO assists with campus discipline at the high school and middle school and will respond to calls at the primary and elementary schools. This agreement outlines the specific duties and responsibilities of the SRO and the responsibilities of the district.

A close relationship between the school district and law enforcement benefits both students and the community. Community crime affects schools, and crime affects the community. A written agreement identifies areas of concern and how each party will address these concerns, helping all parties accomplish the common goal of crime prevention.

Recommendation 54:

Formalize the relationship with area law enforcement by developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Venus Police Department specifying the district’s understanding of services provided by the police department.

Expectations for security service should be clearly spelled out and signed by all parties to the agreement. Sharing information is key to ensuring that school safety is enforced. The district can identify areas that are not addressed in the agreement and determine alternative security or loss control measures.


IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE

1. The superintendent meets with the Venus Police chief, the director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation, the Johnson County Sheriff Department's student resource officer and school administration to identify current security services provided by police department. September 2003
2. The superintendent meets with legal counsel to draft the MOU with the Venus Police Department. September 2003
3. The superintendent, district legal counsel and Venus police chief meet to finalize the MOU. October 2003
4. The superintendent submits the MOU to the board for approval. November 2003


FISCAL IMPACT

This recommendation can be implemented with existing resources.


FINDING

VISD does not have written policy and standard operating procedures to ensure that the district can accurately account for all keys to the district buildings. There are no key procedures that cover labeling, location, distribution, collection, master key dissemination and a re-keying schedule. The director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation is responsible for the initial distribution of keys. There are no written records of the keys that the director has distributed in the past. Key distribution procedures vary by school. At the high school, the school secretary, principal, assistant principal and athletic director each have a master key. The secretary distributes keys to school personnel. The principals or assistant principals distribute keys at the other schools. The district requires employees to turn in keys upon resignation or termination. There are no regulations regarding employees reproducing district keys. The director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation said employees know they are not to make copies of district keys.

Controlling building access is a basic protective measure. If keys are lost or not returned, the building has an increased risk of loss or vandalism. Many school districts physically label keys and employees sign a security document when keys are issued. These districts require employees to return keys when they are terminated. Additionally, many districts randomly conduct physical key counts and ensure employees still have the keys that correspond to the signed documents in their personnel files. When a key is found to be missing, the district immediately takes action to re-key all corresponding locks in affected areas. This procedure ensures that the safety of students and staff is not compromised if a lost key finds its way into the hands of an unauthorized person.

San Diego Unified School District has prepared a detailed administrative policy that deals specifically with issuing keys. The district assigns accountability for all keys to the school or central administration. The policy outlines who in the district is entitled to have keys, when they are assigned and what procedure should be followed if an employee is terminated or leaves the district. In addition, the district presents detailed instructions concerning master keys, non-master keys, duplicate keys and lost or stolen keys. Finally, the policy includes procedures for re-keying.

Recommendation 55:

Establish a district policy and set of procedures designed to track all district keys.

The district should take an inventory of who has been issued master keys and room keys for all district facilities. It should then establish a policy to ensure that distribution of keys is strictly monitored. Each key should be manually coded and assigned to a specific staff member. Each staff member should be required to sign for their keys and be held accountable if they lose their key. The keys should be stamped “Not to be duplicated.” The director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation can track the issuance of keys on an Excel spreadsheet. The district should require principals to maintain and submit records of who has keys to the VISD central office monthly.


IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE

1. The superintendent directs the director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation to draft a policy and standard operating procedures to track keys. September 2003
2. The superintendent directs the director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation and principals to inventory all master keys and room keys for district facilities and compile the inventories into one central database. September 2003
3. The director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation meets with all school principals and department heads to discuss the current status of all keys; the needs of teachers, coaches and all who require access to each facility; and identify any potential security risks due to lost keys. October 2003
4. The director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation develops a policy and standard operating procedures for issuing district keys. October 2003
5. The director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation submits the policy and standard operating procedures to the superintendent for approval. November 2003
6. The superintendent approves and presents the policy and standard operating procedures to the board for consideration. November 2003
7. The board adopts the new policy and standard operating procedures. November 2003
8. The director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation distributes the approved policy and standard operating procedures to all schools and departments. December 2003
9. The director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation implements the standard operating procedures and tracks the issuance of keys on an Excel spreadsheet. December 2003 and Ongoing


FISCAL IMPACT

This recommendation can be implemented with existing resources.


FINDING

VISD does not set the security alarm systems at the schools. VISD invested in a security alarm system for Venus High School, Venus Middle School and Venus Elementary School. During the teacher focus group, teachers said that the high school no longer set the alarm system. The high school principal confirmed that the alarm system was no longer used because of traffic in and out of the building at all hours. The principal cited numerous false alarms as the reason for not setting the alarm system. The director for Operations, Maintenance and Transportation said he was not aware that the alarm system had not been used for the past months at the high school. He did know that the elementary school and middle school were not using their alarm systems. He stated that the Police Department patrols the campuses three times a night for security. When asked how often the alarm codes are reissued, the director stated there has not been a need to reissue the codes and could not recall the last time there was a break-in or theft occurrence at the schools. The review team audited the district’s invoices from the alarm company and found that the district continued to pay for the alarm services at the elementary and high school campuses. The middle school’s security system was in-house. The security alarm service for Venus High School is $141.17 per month. The elementary school’s quarterly statement for security monitoring is $75.

In safety conscious schools, districts look for trouble before it occurs. Security alarm systems provide district staff and police notice of intrusion to campus buildings, ensuring a degree of secure and safe environments for students and staff. In addition, the alarm system provides a degree of security for the district’s property and personal contents

Recommendation 56:

Require all campuses to set their alarm systems when buildings are not in use.


IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE

1. The superintendent directs the director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation to draft a policy and procedure to set all alarm systems when buildings are not in use. September 2003
2. The director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation submits the policy and procedure to the superintendent for approval October 2003
3. The superintendent approves and presents the policy to the board for consideration. October 2003
4. The board adopts the new policy. November 2003
5. The director of Operations, Maintenance and Transportation implements and distributes the approved policy and procedure to all schools and departments. November 2003


FISCAL IMPACT

This recommendation can be implemented with existing resources.