- My Miami County
By CECILIA FOX
Record Herald Writer
Courtesy of the Record Herald; Printed 3.1.13
TIPP CITY - In the wake of violent threats that got the FBI and Wright-Patterson involved, the Tipp City Board of Education discussed school safety and the possibility of allowing teachers to carry firearms Feb. 25.
At the board meeting Feb. 25, school officials thanked everyone involved in the investigation and committed to ensuring the safety of Tipp City students.
“We have to be vigilant on safety from here on out,” board president Frank Maus said.
Five threatening notes were discovered at Tippecanoe High School and Tippecanoe Middle School last week. Last Wednesday, the writers of two of the five notes were arrested, a 14-year-old seventh grader and a 15-year-old freshman.
The board thanked the Tipp City fire and police departments as well as the FBI and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base bomb squad for all their help. They also recognized the staff and students for the way they handled the situation and the community for their support.
“In my opinion everybody did a good job,” Maus said. “We have to be thankful there was no physical harm to any students.”
But, as Superintendent Dr. John Kronour pointed out, it’s not over yet.
The search for the remaing note writers continues and school officials are examining different methods of improving security in the schools.
According to Kronour, staff will be working with local law enforcement to coordinate drills and emergency procedures and with locksmiths on security.
The board also discussed looking into ALICE, a program that trains students and teachers for different scenarios from running away to fighting back against armed intruders. Some of the training includes learning how to barricade a door with items found in a classroom, how to safely break glass and escape from a room, and how to ambush an gunman as a group to disarm him.
ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate, and is practiced in schools, hospitals, and universities across the country. According to its website, ALICE training can last from an hour to a day, depending on age and the kind of training schools want.
“There’s no perfect scenario, unfortunately, for any of these kinds of situations,” Kronour said. “It definitely is a training that is getting a lot of recognition. And it’s trying to figure out what parts and pieces of that as well as other things might fit in your situation. But we’re definitely exploring those kinds of things.”
In light of the bomb scare and the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook, board member Tom Merritt brought up the possibility of allowing school staff to carry concealed weapons.
Ohio law does not permit firearms on school property with the exception of law enforcement officers or those individuals the school board has authorized to carry concealed weapons, Merritt explained.
“Perhaps we could discuss with teachers who might be willing, if the board was to authorize them to carry, who might be willing to do it,” Merritt said.
Board members Kate Johnsen and Carla Frame and Superintendent Kronour expressed serious concerns about teachers having guns in the classroom. Frame suggested that another student resource officer would be a better solution.
“I have major reservations about that. I think the profession of teaching is a nurturing profession. I think that carrying a firearm is at odds with most people who choose to be teachers’ nature,” Johnsen said.
Board vice president Scott Dixon was also in favor of exploring the possibility, saying that locked doors and security cameras would only do so much to stop a gunman from getting into school buildings.
The board agreed to wait for new information from NEOLA and further research before continuing their discussion. NEOLA is a company that works with over 750 school boards in seven states to develop board policies, administrative guidelines, and staff and student handbooks (see www.neola.com for more information).
While the district looks for new ways to keeps kids safe, Maus reminded everyone that the top priority of Tipp City Schools is education.
“Safety and security of the students is number one,” Maus said. “But it can’t be our only priority. We have to remember that we are here to educate kids.”
The situation began Feb. 13 with a threatening note written on toilet paper. A high school freshman was arrested last week for writing that first note. A seventh grader was also arrested for a note written on a table in the middle school cafeteria, the fifth note found. Police are still looking for other students who may have been involved in writing the other three notes.
They are facing charges of inducing panic, a second-degree felony, and disorderly conduct and aggravated menacing, both misdemeanors.
“I do not want a juvenile delinquent dictating the policy of our schools. And instead of assigning this person, or these people, the power to influence our district, I would like to use them as an example to other students of how not to behave,” Merritt said.
Passing the levy
In other business, Kronour outlined a list of things that will return if the levy passes. The 4.93-mill, four-year emergency levy, which is on the ballot in May, will generate $1,917,516 each year if it passes.
“I like to be the optimist and say ‘when the levy passes’,” Kronour said.
The proposed list includes bringing back a high school counselor, a media specialist, a half of each specialist position in art, music, and physical education, and bringing several assistant positions back to full time. Other benefits would include reducing pay to play to $100, reinstating busing to a one mile walk zone, and reviewing salaries.
“Not having these things in place has definitely made our school district different this past year and I don’t believe that we’re able to serve our students in the manner they’ve grown accustomed to and really deserve,” Kronour explained.
If the levy fails, possible effects include healthcare cuts and insurance changes for staff, custodial cuts, an increase in pay to play, several jobs (including a second grade teacher, high school guidance counselor and media specialist, custodian, six coaches), field trips, staff development, and busing.
Middle school changes
Principal Greg Southers also presented the board with a plan to take the middle school from eight class periods per day to seven, which is intended to increase instructional time. If enacted, this change would occur next school year.
Instead of eight 40 minute class periods, students will have seven 48 minute classes, which gives teachers more time to spend on core subjects. In math, science, and social studies, students will have 720 minutes more instructional time per semester.
“The teachers are excited,” Southers said.
Sixth graders will still have a double period of language arts and reading. In seventh and eighth grade, students will spend the days they aren’t in gym in another language arts class. An additional semester long class of composition and communication is being developed for eighth graders. The plan also eliminates eighth grade study halls and replaces them with electives.
The board approved continued membership in the Ohio School Board Association at a cost of $5,535 and renewed subscription to School Management News for $150. The board voted to continue accepting open enrollment students.
A new parent support group was also approved. PIE, or Parents Involved in Education, is a new organization for parents of students at Nevin Coppock and Broadway Elementaries.