My turn: County schools continue to make school safety top priority
El Dorado County’s 15 school districts continue to make school safety a top priority through a variety of strategies designed to further ensure the well-being of students, including concerted planning efforts between school districts, local law enforcement, and other county emergency service agencies.
Our schools take every precaution to ensure the safety of students and staff, and this includes working closely with our emergency service agencies. The goal is to plan up front so that we are as effective as possible during an emergency.
The leadership and assistance the El Dorado County Office of Education has received from local law enforcement in helping to continually assess emergency preparedness, especially in light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut, has been extremely beneficial. Sheriff John D’Agostini, Placerville Chief of Police George Nielson and South Lake Tahoe Chief of Police Brian Uhler have done an outstanding job in providing ongoing support and advice to El Dorado County districts regarding school safety.
All schools in El Dorado County continuously review and update their school safety plans to address a variety of emergency conditions, including security procedures, emergency response, and working effectively with first responders. Emergency drills are conducted throughout the year and include fire drills, lockdowns and practice for earthquakes. School districts and county agencies also work closely together in time of need to provide additional support where needed. For example, counselors, psychologists and administrators are trained to provide immediate assistance to school districts or campuses throughout the county should the need arise. The focus is always on working together to protect and serve our community’s youth.
In the past few years, the El Dorado County Office of Education and local school districts have partnered to provide Safe Schools Symposiums, which featured key speaker presentations on safety, including the Honorable James R. Wagoner, an El Dorado County Superior Court judge and a nationally recognized speaker on at-risk youth. The events included break-out sessions for school teams to review various safety topics, as well as presentations on promising school programs and effective implementation strategies.
Kathy Daniels, director of Facilities, Maintenance, and Operations for the El Dorado County Office of Education, brings two decades of experience to her duties, which include serving as liaison to local law enforcement, to El Dorado County’s Office of Emergency Services, and to county school districts for emergency preparedness and safety related incidents. Our local fire departments, which also regularly inspect school facilities for fire safety, are included in emergency planning and drills along with the county’s Office of Emergency Services. A local Disaster Council meets every other month, and public health officials are included in planning for health emergencies, such as a local flu pandemic. Marshall Hospital helps organize countywide disaster drills. Citing lessons learned from 9/11 in New York City a dozen years ago, Ms. Daniels highlights several improvements in communications, including upgrades that allow our public-safety agencies to more effectively communicate with one another and automated telephone-messaging systems to help get prompt information out to parents, community members and the media.
Our school districts and county emergency service agencies recognize the importance of keeping our schools safe and we are committed to putting forth our best efforts to achieve that goal.
Jeremy Meyers is the deputy superintendent at the El Dorado County Office of Education. He was recently tapped to temporarily fill Vicky Barber’s role as superintendent of school after she retires this summer. An election for the job will be held in 2014.