Pleasant Valley Superintendent talks safety and security with parents

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BETTENDORF, Iowa (KWQC) — In a letter to parents, Pleasant Valley Superintendent Dr. James Spelhaug touched on conversations that were had in Monday night's Board of Education meeting. Spelhaug spoke on the safety of students, faculty and staff; and on resources available to the district. the following is the letter.

At the Monday, February 26, 2018 Board of Education meeting, time was spent reviewing safety protocols and practices. I want to share a summary of that conversation with you.
The safety and security of students, faculty and staff will always stand side by side with the educational development of our students as the highest priorities of the district. The foundations that guide our thinking, planning and actions relative to school safety are as follows:

1. We believe school safety is maximized with planning and preparation. The foundation of this belief is that we will never assume or believe it could not happen here. We have invested heavily in infrastructure which enhances physical safety, including secured access to buildings, wide-spread real time camera systems, interior locking doors, and communication tools. Our safety plans have been developed by safety experts and are practiced regularly and with increasing ambiguity in order to help simulate real time/real threat scenarios. We expect this training to help students know how to respond in a crisis situation, whether in school or elsewhere. We will continue to make infrastructure improvements and are exploring the student suggestion that more frequent drills occur. An immediate point of advocacy is that we encourage state legislators to extend the one cent sales tax for school infrastructure (SAVE) for an additional 20 years past its current sunset. These funds are a critical source of revenue for school safety infrastructure.

2. We believe school safety is maximized when we work together as a community. Our key partnerships are with the Scott County Sheriff's Department and the Bettendorf and the LeClaire Police Departments. We work side by side with these agencies to maximize safety and security. This involves everything from planning drills to investigating threats to executing home searches. Trained law enforcement officers are critical to determining risk assessments. We are fortunate to have two full-time sheriff's deputies serving in the District: Deputy Jim Wilkinson serves the north end of the district and maintains an office at the junior high. ( 563-332-0200). Deputy Chad Weipert serves the south end of the district and maintains an office at the high school. ( 563-332-5151) Students, employees, and parents may contact the deputies at any time to discuss concerns. The Bettendorf Police Department maintains for school districts a confidential SAFETY HOTLINE: 563-344-4469. Note that the hotline is not designed for use during immediate emergencies.

3. We believe our greatest safety net is each member of our community. Your role in reporting safety concerns is vital. Though confidentiality prohibits the release of details, be assured that concerns are extensively investigated by district administration and law enforcement officials, and actions taken are guided by the results of risk assessments completed by law enforcement. The district is reassessing options available to students, parents, faculty and staff for confidentially reporting concerns. As a way to keep parents informed we also plan to include safety supports/reminders as part of ALICE drill notifications to parents. Parents can use these suggestions as an opportunity to reinforce the safety message and to know and understand what is being practiced.

4. We believe that creating a caring and supportive school environment for all students is an essential ingredient to safe schools. Again, there are many ways this is supported in our district. We are proud of the work we do to support the vision that our work is not for some students but for all students. We provide full-time nursing access in every building and we work hard to maintain an excellent student- to-counselor ratio. As an example, we have recently added a 5th full time counselor at the high school. The District's partnership with Vera French Mental Health Center, which provides mental health specialist services in all of our buildings, is another valuable resource.

Finally, I must end with an apology. I believe in good communication and the important role it plays in building and sustaining an excellent school district. As I look back on my decision to not circulate a communication after the Florida school shooting, I am concerned that this may have communicated a lack of sensitivity or the message that safety is not a priority. That most certainly was not my intention. I am proud of what each of us in the district does every day to support the safety of our students, faculty and staff and regret if my actions diminished that hard and important work by so many in any way.

Thank you.

Dr. James Spelhaug, Superintendent