Superintendent's column: Safety of VISD students, staff paramount
By BY ROBERT JAKLICH
Feb. 24, 2018 at 8:42 p.m.
Updated Feb. 25, 2018 at 1 a.m.
n the Victoria Independent School District, the safety and well-being of our students and staff is our number-one priority. While we work each day to provide educational excellence for every child in every classroom every day, our primary responsibility must be to keep our children and staff safe. Our parents and guardians have entrusted us with a priceless gift by sending their children to our schools, and we take that responsibility very seriously.
The tragedy in Florida reminds us all of the importance of safety and security in our schools. We want to assure you that our school district and our schools have an up-to-date emergency operations plan that has been reviewed and created in collaboration with our local law enforcement.
During the past few years, VISD has implemented a number of initiatives in order to improve student safety. We have revised how we plan for emergency situations, how the district supports the campuses during response, how we train and practice using exercises and drills and even how we test ourselves to ensure our processes are working. We have strengthened partnerships with our local public safety agencies to ensure they are familiar with our campuses and that we have an understanding of how we as a district will interface with them during a crisis.
In VISD, all middle and high school campuses are staffed with School Resource Officers (SROs) who work for the Victoria County Sheriff's Office. The district has benefited from a partnership with the Victoria County Sheriff's Office that ensures every VISD campus has a highly trained and dedicated School Resource Officer assigned to it, and the district regularly partners with local law enforcement, the Victoria Fire Department, the Fire Marshal's Office and the Office of Emergency Management in training and planning efforts.
Some specific examples of our commitment to safety include:
• VISD has School Resource Officers (SROs) on all secondary campuses who serve as a valuable resource regarding investigations, safety and security. These SROs also serve their elementary feeder campuses so that students can build a meaningful and positive relationship with our law enforcement partners over the entirety of their time in our school system. This not only helps to keep our campuses safe but also fosters trust, respect and a willingness to engage authorities when the situation calls for it.
• VISD has established a district Safety and Security Committee that is comprised of representatives of both departments and campuses. It allows the district to assess safety observations and trends, share lessons across the district and ensure we are doing all we can to keep students and staff safe.
• VISD participates in planning and training efforts alongside our public safety partners on a regular basis, including mitigation and preparedness planning, sharing spaces for training and facility familiarization and including them in safety decision-making at the campus level.
• VISD has not only evaluated but also tested campuses using both our public safety partners and other external assessors in order to validate our programs and identify our next opportunities for a focused effort on improvement.
• VISD has invested in improving physical infrastructure relating to access control, visitor management systems, communications and warning tools and other security improvements. This is especially important given the fact that many of our campuses were constructed at a time in our history when physical security was not a priority, and instead schools were built for ease of access.
• VISD has consistently demonstrated that we take all potential threats seriously. The district and our campuses are proactive in modifying their posture when needed to ensure our students and staff are safe.
It is important to note that, with a few obvious exceptions, our campuses are broadly different from one another in size, layout and location. We have rural schools, campuses set in neighborhoods and campuses built in busy parts of town. Our campus administrators work with their SROs and other experts in the field of safety to develop and practice procedures that work given their unique situations, and in turn, the district supports them by assessing and testing those procedures and providing meaningful feedback. This cycle of continuous improvement is ongoing and of the highest importance to VISD.
Winston Churchill once stated, "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." On behalf of our Board of Trustees and the entire school district, thank you for all that you give to the wonderful students of the VISD, for making the success of each and every student a priority and for never allowing the urgent items to crowd out the important ones.
Robert Jaklich is the superintendent for the Victoria Independent School District. Contact him at 361-788-9202 or through the VISD website, visd.com.