Jacksonville ISD

A Bullard-based company that focuses “on the mission of school safety” has been chosen to perform Jacksonville ISD's school safety audit.

Curtis Clay and Associates began preliminary work on the audit Oct. 1, following a brief meeting with the district's Safety and Security committee.

Schools superintendent Dr. Chad Kelly said that “by utilizing outside eyes, we get a fresh perspective on the effectiveness of our safety procedures. As in any aspect of public education, we continually assess our capabilities and are eager to learn new best practices and implement new programs or strategies which are designed to keep our students, staff and visitors safe.”

JISD Police Chief Bill Avera said that during Clay's meeting Tuesday with the district's Safety and Security committee, “he presented how his group does the audits and gave timelines – I really felt comfortable with him being the person looking at our district,” said Avera, who added that Clay “is eminently qualified in safety audits.”

According to Clay's Linked In profile, “Curtis started his career in education in 1985 with a school on the Texas border in West Texas,” soon becoming involved with School Safety and Security.

He also “worked extensively with at risk and emotionally disturbed youth, emergency management planning, school safety audits and overall youth violence prevention throughout his career,” the site stated. “He became an employee with the Texas School Safety Center just after its inception in 1999 and had a key role with establishing the foundation of the organization. He was initially brought on board as the Training and Media Supervisor, but moved to Director of Programs as the Center continued to grow.”

Clay was instrumental in helping develop the Texas Unified School Safety and Security Standards, built around the four phases of the emergency management system, the site stated. “After 18 years of service to TxSSC, he relocated and retired from the Center as Associate Director for the School Safety Education Division of the Center in the fall of 2016,” it added.

Audits are done on a three-year cycle; the current Jacksonville ISD audit is for the period beginning Sept. 1, 2017, through Aug. 30, 2020.

Avera said the local committee expects to hear back from the company “later in the fall or in the spring, then we'll present it to the school board.”

“This will be the second audit cycle since I joined JISD in 2016. The 2017 audit had no remarkable findings,” Kelly said.

Something new this year that will be taken into consideration is Senate Bill 11, enacted June 6 by Texas legislators, impacting “policies, procedures and measures for school safety and mental health promotion in public schools and the creation of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium,” according to https://legiscan.com.

Kelly said he does not foresee any challenges in implementing changes related to SB11.

“Our staff does a great job in staying abreast of the changes – JISD is way ahead of many districts in the state in that we’ve already trained our staff in emergency practices; created our threat assessment teams and completed training; embraced the new audit procedures; and already feel that we have a safe environment,” he said. “Chief Avera has worked with the Texas School Safety Center for a number of years, so we have a great relationship with them. Next to student achievement, safety is our number one priority. You must have a safe environment for teaching and learning to happen.”

Avera agreed.

“Safety is a very high priority and it's proven kiddos can't do well learning unless they feel safe, and that it's difficult for teachers to teach if they are not in a safe environment,” he said, describing how the district is “constantly assessing and looking to upgrade” technology that aids in creating safe campuses.

Campuses incorporate safety features in their design, such as a single main entrance into the building – through the front office – an identification system for visitors and a layout designed to offer protection in the event of a crisis.

“We use the same safety features across the district,” Avera said.

In September, his office issued a school safety message to “JISD stakeholders,” whom he said the district wants to reassure “that we are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of their most precious commodity: Their children.”

Along with measures described by the superintendent, the district also is “exploring implementation of an anonymous phone-based tip app which will allow stakeholders to quickly and easily report suspicious activity from their smartphone;” continue to encourage students, staff and familes to “See Something – Say Something” if observing suspicious activities; and continue to monitor social media.

To learn more about the district's efforts to provide more secure campuses, contact JISD Police Chief Bill Avera at 903-589-2621 or email isaac.avera@jisd.org. Or visit the district website, www.jisd.org.

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