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Archive for Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Weseman sees room for improvement

Better system of emergency notification needed, superintendent says

April 24, 2007

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Bomb scare helps shed light on ways to improve communication during emergencies

At Monday night's Lawrence School Board meeting, Superintendent Randy Weseman says he's happy with the way the situation was handled - but there's always room for improvement. Enlarge video

A bomb scare last week revealed Lawrence's public schools can take steps to improve the way parents are informed about emergencies, says Superintendent Randy Weseman.

"We can do better," Weseman told Lawrence's school board Monday night.

District administrators will work on getting an automated system that will notify parents by phone - at home, at work or on their mobile phone, he said.

On Thursday, Lawrence police arrested Michael E. Parker, 46, who has been charged with three counts of making an aggravated criminal threat. Police claim Parker that morning made unspecified threats of a bomb at Douglas County schools and at City Hall, allegedly phoning the threats in to a county dispatcher.

School administrators got word of the threat shortly before or just as students were arriving at schools Thursday.

"We knew early on that the threat was not very credible," Weseman said. The threat came three days after the shootings at the Virginia Tech campus, which was followed by dozens of bogus threats across the country in the next few days.

However, the district still had to take the threat seriously, so schools were put into a "semi-lockdown" mode, Weseman said.

He began dealing with the situation by informing the Journal-World, 6News and the local radio stations. Upon hearing the news, some parents came to school to retrieve their children. About 3,800 students were taken home.

But at the end of the day, some parents complained they didn't get the information directly from their child's school.

"Our internal and external communications, I think, could use some improvements," Weseman said.

Weseman said he assigned a committee to find what the district could do to get information out to the public. He said he would review the group's report and make recommendations to the board at a later date.

He said Rick Gammill, director of special operations, transportation and safety, already looked at a system that would notify parents "on a communications device that they deem appropriate."

"That could be a home phone, or it could be their cell phone. It could be a work phone," Weseman said.

He said the cost has come down considerably since the last time the system was studied.

"This looks very doable to me right now," he said.

It also could be used to notify parents if classes are canceled on snow days, he said.

In other action Monday, the board:

l Heard a report on fringe benefits from Kathy Johnson and Valerie Johnson-Powell, co-chairwomen of the fringe benefit committee. The committee met during the last six months and solicited bids for employee benefits for medical, dental and vision. They recommended the district pick CIGNA as the medical carrier, Delta Dental as the dental provider and VSP Vision Care as the eyecare benefits provider. The board approved the recommendations 7-0.

l Heard a report from Tom Bracciano, division director of operations and facility planning, and Lee Fuller, project manager of the DLR Group, about the status of the 2005 school bond issue. Board members also saw photos of construction at the new South Junior High School, which is expected to open in August, although not all work is expected to be finished. In June, asbestos is to be removed from the old school building and that building will be razed during the fall. The board also heard reports and saw photos on other construction projects that are mostly complete at the district's three other junior highs and the two high schools. Updated photos can be viewed at www.2005bondprogramconstruction.com.

l Went into executive session for about an hour to discuss teacher negotiations.

Comments

prioress 7 years, 8 months ago

Good job, Mr. Weseman. Given the panic and the silly season we face late April each year, you did quite a good job.

Sigmund 7 years, 8 months ago

I am glad to see Weseman et alia are reviewing their processes, procedures and policies in the wake of this incident. I expect parents look forward to hearing what comes from their discussions and analysis. It is encouraging to see the district responding in such a positive manner to the unfortunate events of last week.

perkins 7 years, 8 months ago

We can rest easy. A committee has been formed.

shirinisb 7 years, 8 months ago

Anyone who panics in Kansas in April should move. I'm numb from hitting the basement since I was a kid.

I think that the school district(s) did a good job, and I'm often a harsh critic of the Lawrence School district. My daughter's private school was also notified but I went ahead and took her that day anyway. My mother felt more comfortable picking up her foster kids because they were at a public high school.

The officials both school police/rescue did a good job in this situation, so good that it didn't even make me hesitate letting my child continue on with her day without letting that sick jerk ruin it.

I hope he doesn't pass through the hands of any sympathetic judges.

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