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School super: We must do better

Back in April, I wrote an editorial about the need to improve school safety based on lessons learned from the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. where a live shooter killed 20 children, eight adults and injured two others. On May 20, our bond – which would have funded safety improvements in our schools – lost by a scant 37 votes.

The Woodburn School Board will discuss whether to run the bond again at their July 17 regular board meeting (7:30 p.m. at the French Prairie Middle School Library, 1025 N. Boones Ferry Road). Parents, faculty, community members and students have asked us to put it back on the ballot. However, we need to have a public process before making that determination.

I, for one, will be strongly advocating that the school board place the bond back on the ballot – and I hope you will join me. The recent shooting deaths at Seattle Pacific University in Washington by a mentally-ill person, and closer to home at Reynolds High School in Troutdale by a freshman student clinched it for me.

I want this bond back on the ballot because these tragedies are happening with more frequency and closer to home.

We do a good job protecting our students. Our schools are the safest place for children to be in an emergency. We have procedures in place that work, and a police presence on our campuses. But, so did Sandy Hook Elementary, Seattle Pacific University and Reynolds High School.

We must do better.

As a public school superintendent and a parent, I am tired of the politics around the issue of school shootings. I am not going to comment on guns, alienated youth, or lack of resources for the mentally ill. In fact, I am doubtful that these issues will improve in my lifetime – but we are not powerless. We can make our communities safer at the local level through our public schools, and it is incumbent upon us to do so.

We must make it harder for a tragedy to occur in Woodburn schools by restricting access to unknown persons and improving internal safety controls if a shooter is already in the building. These improvements were part of what the bond would have funded, which is why I feel it is so important to put it back on the ballot. Here’s what bond funding will do to make our schools safer:

— Install a keyless entry system for each building so people who aren’t supposed to be on campus can’t access our schools.

— Redesign school entrances to give the front offices “line of sight” to any person trying to enter the building. Individuals will only be admitted once it is determined that they have reason to be there.

— Fit classrooms with special door locks to provide an extra level of security if a shooter is in the building.

— Install wireless in every school building to provide seamless communication with authorities during an emergency.

Since Sandy Hook, 74 shootings have taken place on U.S. campuses, the majority of which were at K-12 schools. These shootings impact entire communities, not just those who use our schools. Bond funding is the only way we can make these safety improvements to our schools in addition to major repairs and renovations.

Our existing bond expires at the end of the year. If the school board agrees to run the bond again, you will have the opportunity to vote to continue funding for safety improvements to our schools at a lower estimated tax rate than you are currently paying. I hope you will see this as a local solution to a growing national problem. Thank you.



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