Board secretary Cheryl Chaney swears in reelected board members William Roderique, David Collard and Jeanne Newby (seated at right).

District receives recommendations for improving safety and security

Bob Foos

School safety expert Dennis Lewis met with Webb City R-7 School Board members prior to their regular meeting Tuesday to present the result of his four-month inspection of safety and security practices in the district.

Before he co-founded the firm Edu-Safe, Lewis, a former police officer, was the director of security for Springfield schools for 12 years.

His inspection involved checklist surveys in 140 spaces at 12 district sites. He also interviewed 60 staff members – ranging from administrators to teachers and janitors.

Steve Lewis notes the initiative of a school nurse who put together a trauma kit during his evaluation of safety and security at the junior high in December.

“School safety is everybody’s job, he said.”

In addition to his overall report, Lewis prepared an individual report for each school with checklists on how to improve safety and security.

He stressed that although there’s a heightened alert regarding school violence, safety is also an issue. “You can’t focus on school violence only,” he said. “There are other less-known causes of injury.”

He noted that his No. 1 recommendation – to hire an individual to oversee the school safety program district-wide – is already being implemented.

Josh Flora, assistant superintendent for business operations, confirmed the position of Director of Safety and Security is posted online.

Meanwhile, the Webb City Council on Monday, at the request of the school board, agreed to pay half the salary of a third school resource officer to serve primarily at the middle school. The other two officers, whose salaries are split between the city and school district, spend most of their time at the high school and junior high.

This year the school board has taken steps to secure entrances to buildings and place electronic monitors on each exterior door.

Answering a question about control of access to the schools, Lewis said, “It’s not that bad.”

During a random check, he said he didn’t find any malfunctioning locks and only two were unlocked.

He said the “weakest component” is substitute teachers, who are mostly unaware of what to do in case of emergency.

For a positive example, he recalled interviewing one substitute teacher who was fully knowledgeable because the regular teacher had left a handmade instruction book in the desk.

Another positive case he said the district could use as an example to expand on was a junior high nurse’s initiative to stock a trauma kit in the safe room.

There are 22 recommendations in Lewis’ report. Among them is the recommendation that the district replace classroom doors that have windows too close to the door lock.

Windows farther away from the lock are just one way he said to allow more time to take shelter. The idea is to “keep adding up seconds until law enforcement can get there.”

Another recommendation is to put numbers on exterior doors and windows to help guide law enforcement to sections of the building.

At the close of the presentation, Flora pledged to prioritize implementation of Lewis’ recommendations.

Board reorganizes

William Roderique was elected president of the board after he and two other board members, David Collard and Jeanne Newby, were sworn in to serve new three-year terms. They were reelected on April 4.

Cheryl Chaney remains as board secretary, and Josh Flora, assistant superintendent for business operations, retains his position as treasurer.

2023-24 budget overview

Superintendent Tony Rossetti gave the board an overview of the next school-year budget.

He predicted an $800,000 gain in revenue from increased assessed property evaluation and Proposition C sales tax receipts from the state.

Expenses will also grow in order to fund new positions and give modest pay raises.

Rossetti noted the district still has $1 million in covid relief funds to put in reserve in case enrollment fails to increase again.

He said he worries that if the enrollment stagnation continues the board may have to consider raising revenue to balance the budget two years from now.

The board will schedule a budget work session in June.

In other action:

• Brenten Byrd, assistant superintendent for instructional services, sought feedback on how to improve the annual banquet to honor students who did well on the MAP test. This year’s banquet was held April 3.

• Flora cited no delays in the construction to expand the high school. The current phase should be finished in June. And then Cardinal Theater will be rejuvenated this summer.

• The retirement of Sara Lee as principal of Webster Primary Center was accepted. After 25 years with the district, she said she plans to be a trainer for the Southwest Center for Educational Excellence.

• Resignations were accepted from:

– Juliana Truska, third grade, Harry S Truman Elementary.

– Jenny Woodmansee, fourth grade, Eugene Field Elementary.

– Julie Hansen, fourth grade, Eugene Field.

– Cameron Tournear, fourth grade, Eugene Field.

– Erin White, junior high special education.

– Kelly Hansen, fifth grade, middle school.

• Offered contracts to:

– Shawn Land, special education, Heritage Preschool.

– Mareika Turpen, special education, Heritage.

– Emily Burdick, special education, Heritage.

– Deanna Dawson, special education, Heritage.

– Hallie Harper, high school speech and debate (Tiffany Bolin, the current speech and debate coach, is taking the vacant position in theatre).

– Chelsea White, middle school fifth grade.

– Kanaan Wells, middle school sixth grade.

– Riley Porter, middle school counselor.

– Christine Harry, middle school fifth grade.

– Lanette Smith, junior high English.