‘D’ for determination: Evert focuses on safety

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Monday, February 4, 2008
— What do you do when you get a poor grade?

The superintendent of Janesville public schools faced that question recently.

His response: Get better.

A Janesville School Board member gave Evert a D for his efforts in keeping schools safe during a recent review.

Evert could have focused on the seven board members who gave him grades of B or better.

He chose instead to look at the C and the D.

“Not much emphasis placed on school safety,” a board member wrote. “Many districts are way ahead of Janesville in their preparation and planning.”

Evert responded by asking principals and other administrators districtwide to send him ideas on how the district could make schools safer.

“I’m interested in hearing from administrators, what they think we need to do to take safety/security to the next level,” Evert said. “We are extremely proud of our efforts in this area. We’ve received positive feedback from various sources.”

The district recently installed a video/audio/door buzzer system at all 12 elementary schools. Someone in the school office takes a look at every visitor during the school day and decides whether or not to open the door.

And the district is part of a rare agreement among county schools, police, courts, juvenile probation and child protective services to share information about students who might become violent.

Lack of communications has been cited in incidents such as the shootings at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School.

School board member Todd Bailey thinks the district should do much more.

“Being on par with other districts isn’t good enough,” said Bailey, a Janesville police officer. “To me, it’s one of the most important things of the school district, to make sure these kids are safe. We need to go above and beyond what we’re doing now. … “I think people would be amazed how vulnerable our schools are.”

For starters, Bailey thinks that a full-time security chief is in order. The safety/security duties always have been the task of someone who has other duties. Director of Student Services Karen Schulte now has the job.

Bailey is also interested in replacing what he sees as easy-to-duplicate keys with key fobs. The fobs would unlock school doors electronically and allow the district to monitor who is entering and leaving, Bailey said.

Bailey acknowledged that he’s talking about new spending in a time when officials are considering what to cut.

“That’s not an area where you skimp,” Bailey said, adding that grants are probably available from the federal government and others.

Bailey said no security system is foolproof, but “some kids look forward to going to school just to be safe, and I want to assure those kids that they’re definitely going to be safe.”

Evert said he already has received some “excellent” suggestions. He plans to review them with his staff before presenting a plan to the school board.

Evert said he appreciates honest feedback from school board members.

“It’s always helpful,” he said. “It’s not always pleasant.”

Last updated: 5:39 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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