Safety & Security Message from Superintendent Joe Regano
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dear Solon Schools’ Families:

As I sat down to begin writing this message, we received word that Businessweek has named Solon the best city in Ohio to raise children. This outside endorsement of the community and the school district as one of the best in the nation pervades the discussions we are having this week in Solon related to one of the most important issues related to raising children – school safety.

The meeting we conducted last night with our Board, administrative team and Solon Police Chief Chris Viland was one of the best we have had in Solon. It represented what makes Solon the special community it is and underscored the absolute commitment of our school district and our safety forces to be certain we are doing everything we possibly can to keep our students safe when they are at school. The questions and concerns that you have raised over the past few days were part of our deliberations. You will see many of those suggestions reflected in the actions we take regarding changes to our daily operations related to safety and security.

The Board and I are taking what we believe is responsible action to get us started in making necessary changes just as you expect. Although we are moving quickly to get started, we are not abandoning the thoughtful and deliberative process we so strongly believe in here in Solon. We will utilize professionals and the best knowledge available in the field of security and school safety. Along the way, just as we do to ensure academic excellence, we will commit the capital in financial and human resources we determine are needed to be among the best in the nation at protecting our students and staff at school.

The Board has granted me the authority to pursue several actions and planning as listed below. As these changes move forward, the Board will discuss them at its regular meetings and we will communicate the recommended outcomes to you directly. Obviously we cannot implement all of these actions at once. We will prioritize and implement the changes in collaboration with consultants and professionals who possess the level of expertise that we believe is crucial.

• Immediately commission a re-evaluation of our buildings and security with the national school safety consultant who has worked with us previously on our security planning.
• Create a new position of district Director of Safety & Security to provide professional guidance and direction to our day-to-day operations related to school safety and security. It is clear to us that we need expertise beyond what is currently available on our staff.
• Make architectural changes to our school buildings, including, but not limited to, entry points, which make them more secure.
• Work and plan with city officials as we begin school-day police protection and presence in each building and on school grounds.
• More strictly enforce the security measures we already have in place.
• Practice the safety drills in our schools with more regularity and at different times of the school day so students and staff are prepared for action regardless of what time of day an emergency occurs.

Proactively, we will do everything in our power, together with the Solon safety forces, to improve the safety of our schools. But we cannot do it alone. We need your help if we are to enforce the types of changes that truly make our buildings and grounds more secure every day. Many of these commonsense actions mean following the rules we already have in place at our buildings. These include cooperating with and adhering to your schools’ policies related to student drop-off times and procedures in the mornings as well as parent visits to the schools for meetings, classroom/school events and drop off of forgotten items.

We also ask you to be vigilant in waiting patiently at locked school doors to identify yourself and state your purpose for coming to the school. Please do not knock on doors that are not approved public entry points and ask students or staff members to let you in. They are being reminded again not to do so. Remind students before they leave for school to check to be sure they have everything they need for the day in an effort to limit and avoid parent trips to the schools to bring forgotten items such as lunches, homework, musical instruments, backpacks, athletic equipment, etc. In the rush of everyday life, we know patience can run low and anxiety high, but we ask that you recommit to being safe and patient when dropping off and picking up your students from school.

If we are going to enact meaningful change in better controlling access to our schools and improving overall safety, we need to include you in this equation. Parent support is one of the hallmarks of our success in Solon. I know we can count on you to adjust your routines and attitudes accordingly to do what it takes to achieve the outcomes related to school safety and security we all desire.

This is just the beginning of our dialogue with you on these issues. We will communicate with you often as these safety and security changes are discussed and implemented.

Thank you for you support and cooperation as we engage in this process of addressing the difficult and challenging issue of school safety in our changing world.

Joe Regano