Dear Parents and Community Members,
Have you ever been so involved with a project that it surprised you when someone else knew little or nothing of your work? Sometimes we “live and breathe” whatever it is we’re focused on, but others pay little attention until…
Such is the case with the school district’s efforts in the area of security. For well over 10 years we have exceeded state requirements and gone well beyond what comparable districts do in the area of student safety.
What we haven’t done, at least to the extent we should have, is to communicate all of our progress in this area with you. Just as we will never become complacent with academic achievement, the same is true for campus security. We must continuously review and strengthen efforts in this area.
All of our efforts can be organized into three areas of action: proactive, preventative and preparation.
The first “P” brings me great pride and, frankly, is what distinguishes us from other districts. In many instances of school violence, you will read how a student had been bullied and eventually reacted in a violent way. By being proactive, we accomplish both the creation of safe and respectful learning environments and diminish the possibility of our students hurting others or themselves.
Our anti-bullying initiative and character education program are at the foundation of being proactive. Certainly, issues still arise and, when they do, our staff members are trained and ready to help. On an ongoing basis, staff concentrates on cultivating trusting relationships with students. This allows students to come forward if they are troubled or helps our staff recognize when something of concern with a student’s behavior and to address the issue(s) in a productive manner.
We are also fortunate to have a full-time School Resource Office from the Orono Police Department, and have worked to build positive and productive working relationships with the Orono Police Department and West Hennepin Public Safety, as well as the Long Lake and Maple Plain fire departments. The proximity of the police department to our campus is an added benefit.
The second “P” characterizes all of our efforts in preventing a crisis. Perhaps the most recognizable of these is the relocation of the main offices and, as a result, building access at Orono High School, Orono Intermediate School and Orono Schumann Elementary. We were able to accomplish these important changes during the recent renovations of each school. At Orono Middle School, a security system is now being used in the main entrance to achieve the same benefit.
Recently, we dialogued with executives employed by a private security firm and local law enforcement representatives. They provided us invaluable insights on what we were doing well and where we could strengthen security efforts.
We never wish to be tested on the final “P” – preparation – but we have done our homework. Did you know that key staff members have studied with the Department of Homeland Security beside police chiefs and officers? Or that staff members have been trained in the same threat assessment techniques used by the United States Secret Service? We have both taken active roles in live crisis drills and worked through various threat scenarios in training sessions designed by Homeland Security, police and the FBI.
The district has a well-developed plan with internal response teams assigned to specific responsibilities. All of these team members receive regular training. Each classroom and office has an Emergency Plan flip chart posted for quick reference. Students and staff engage in safety drills (fire, lockdown and tornado) throughout the school year. In addition, we have shared training with Wayzata Public Schools and local clergy members to increase our ability to respond in the event of a major crisis.
All of the actions in these three steps have enhanced our capacity to protect everyone. But we also need your cooperation. Keeping students and staff safe is our highest priority and, as such, it goes beyond the scope of being “just” the responsibility of the schools and/or “just” the responsibility of the police. It is a community effort. We can always benefit from another set of eyes and ears working to keep our schools safe. If you see or hear anything that concerns you, report it immediately.
Also, we understand that new systems and new procedures have the potential to cause slight inconveniences. We know you share our priority and appreciate your cooperation in abiding by any changes we implement for the sake of safe learning environments.
Dr. Karen Orcutt,
Superintendent of Schools