Superintendent thanks community for supporting 10-Point Safety Investment Plan
District already recognized as a model for the nation
Speaking publicly for the first time since an effort to recall a tax to support his Comprehensive 10-Point Safety Investment Plan failed, Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk recognized individuals who supported the initiative and pledged to move forward with deliberate action and public accountability.
“Two months ago, I asked our community to make a significant and permanent investment in the safety of the 42,000 children who attend our Fayette County Public Schools and the 7,800 employees who serve them,” Caulk said at a Sept. 7 news conference. “I promised you that day that with your support, our district would be able to implement a plan that would make Lexington a leader in the area of school safety not only in Kentucky, but across the United States, and ensure that our schools are among the safest in the nation.”
After carefully considering other ways of funding these critical investments, the Fayette County Board of Education voted on July 18 to approve a 5-cent property tax to pay for the safety plan. Just days after the vote, a handful of local residents announced their intention to gather enough petitions to overturn that action and force a special election to implement the safety plan. Shortly before their deadline at the close of business on Sept. 4, leaders of the effort announced that they were thousands of signatures short. Less than 24 hours later, Caulk and FCPS were featured on the front page of the nation’s flagship education publication as a model for other school districts seeking community engagement to address school safety issues.
“Just as we predicted, this community is now showing the rest of America how we can all come together to safeguard our children and educators before a tragedy strikes,” Caulk said.
On the heels of the school shootings in Marshall County, Kentucky, and Parkland, Florida, last January and February, issues of school safety have been on the forefront of public policy discussions nationally. State legislatures have considered at least 261 school safety bills, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Those proposals most commonly focused on law enforcement, providing additional school safety funding, adjusting laws related to carrying guns in schools, and school police.
In spring 2018, FCPS established the District Safety Advisory Council to examine best practices in school safety and develop actionable recommendations to ensure that students are safe at school, at home, and in the community. The council was composed of 28 students, parents, educators, first responders, city officials, and business, faith, and community leaders selected for their experience and expertise in the area of safety and emergency management. They released a white paper outlining specific actions for lawmakers, schools and districts, families and students, and the community at large.
The recommendations made for schools and districts led to the creation of Caulk’s Comprehensive 10-Point Safety Investment Plan. Each component addresses an existing need, not only to prevent a school shooting, but also to mitigate the other risks students face including bullying, self-harm, suicide, drug use, online exploitation, trauma, and community-based issues.
When fully implemented, the plan calls for placing a law enforcement officer in every school, hiring more mental health professionals to bring the per pupil ratio to national best practices, adding teams of security monitors in all middle and high schools, and addressing adolescent health in a comprehensive way by adding full-time nurses in every middle and high school and special program, and contracting with University of Kentucky for follow-up medical and mental health care. It also includes facility upgrades such as security alarms on all exterior doors, secure vestibules, cameras, security systems and internal door security, metal detectors at all middle and high schools, social media monitoring, an emergency communication system, expanded safety and emergency training, a districtwide Social and Emotional Learning curriculum, and ID badges for staff, contractors, and middle and high school students.
“I stand before you today humbled,” Caulk said at Friday’s news conference. “I often refer to myself as your servant superintendent because my faith guides my work. This effort has been a journey far greater than I would have or could have designed. This process was driven by a force greater than us.”
Caulk thanked Commerce Lexington, the 16th District PTA, the United Way, the Urban League, and the Rev. C.B. Akins representing members of the faith community for “standing with us to put students first. Without your guidance and steadfast commitment to doing what’s right for children, we would not be at this moment in time today.”
Bill Lear, a former chair of Commerce Lexington and immediate past chair of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, spoke on behalf of Commerce Lexington. “When this process was first announced, the business community stood arm in arm with other community and faith leaders, to say, ‘It’s time to do something. It’s going to cost money, but it’s worth it,” Lear said. “This is no time for gloating. This is a time to dedicate ourselves to put this program in place as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible. This is too important for us to wait. The next generation of leaders is at risk, and we need to deal with it.”
Timelines and action plans for each of the 10 safety points will be shared at the Fayette County Board of Education’s Sept. 10 planning meeting. “While the revenue from the levy will not be collected until November, we will take deliberate steps and make substantial progress to begin to put these safeguards in place in short order,” Caulk said. “Just as we do with our strategic plan, we will regularly update our community on our progress. We will publish a status tracker on our website, with timelines, budgets, and measures of progress so that our community can see their investment at work.”
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