PHOTO: WCS Safety and Security Director Mike Fletcher speaks before school board members Nancy Garrett, Rick Wimberly, Dan Cash and others during the Board of Education Wednesday. / Photo by John McBryde
By JOHN McBRYDE
From making sure the doors are locked to assigning the appropriate number of school resource officers to ensuring there’s an app with a tip line, the measures to make schools in the Williamson County Schools district safe and secure are many and ongoing.
That’s the message WCS Safety and Security Director Mike Fletcher presented to members of the district’s Board of Education and central office staff during Wednesday’s school board retreat at the new Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center. The evening’s agenda also included presentations and discussions on topics such as social media usage, rezoning and growth, and possible state legislation in 2020. However, with the ongoing concern of school violence, the most pertinent subject was school safety.
“The way I look at safety and security for our schools is the same way the Secret Service looks at it for the president,” said Fletcher, who was hired by WCS in 2012. “It’s called concentric rings of protection. There are multiple layers of different types of resources we can put in place to protect our students and staff.”
Fletcher spent about 20 minutes going over a list of projects, developments and tools being used to improve safety and security at the district’s 48 schools. He pointed out, for instance, that not too long ago schools had an easy entryway.
“Our access control is improving,” Fletcher said. “When I got to the district, our schools weren’t locked up very tight, and so we went through the process of locking them up and creating that single point-of-entry access and providing technology at the front door so folks on the inside cold have the communication before they pushed that button to release the front door. We have that on all of our schools.”
“That program is continuing to grow, and we’ve moved to a second phase of creating what I call a containment area, a place where once you get inside the building you still don’t have a free and open access to the rest of the building.”
That retrofitting is occurring at the older school buildings.
Fletcher stressed the significance of having SRO’s in every school, and two in the high schools with enrollments over 1,500. Those are provided through the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, and that law enforcement agency is also working with the school district on threat assessment.
“This has taken a lot of work and a lot of time, but it has been incredibly effective in mitigating threats and keeping our schools safe,” Fletcher said of the partnership. “[It’s] not just hoping our schools are safe, but truly going out and mitigating threats and knowing we’re going to have school the next day.”
While there may be projects completed and final steps taken in some areas of safety, Fletcher said it’s an ongoing process. People will need to adapt to a new culture of safety and security, he added.
The reality is, security is not necessarily convenient,” he said. “We have to get in the mindset that we’re going to have to be inconvenienced, but it’s worth doing because it makes us more secure.”
“We have many projects we are working on and will continue working on until they’re completed. First and foremost, it’s to continue to create a culture of safety and security… This is a marathon and not a sprint, and it’s something we have to continually build on and continually press to get that culture change in our society. We do get pushback at times and we do make things inconvenient, and that does cause a problem. But in the long run people are going to choose safety and security over convenience. We just have to be consistent and that’s something we have to continue to work on.”