Warsaw School Board Hears Safety Update

Dr. David Robertson, assistant superintendent of elementary education, highlighted Warsaw Community Schools’ partnership with the Warsaw Police Department during the School Board meeting Tuesday. Pictured (L to R) are school resource officers Brandon Zartman, Lewis Fuller, Phil Reed and Roy Navarro and Robertson. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union

School safety was a topic of discussion during the Warsaw School Board meeting Tuesday.

Dr. David Robertson, assistant superintendent of elementary education, highlighted some of the work Warsaw Community Schools did over the summer in regards to school safety.

He said the summer did start off with a countywide tabletop exercise.

The exercise was to examine response, recovery and/or continuity of operation plans of local police departments, Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office, all school districts in the county, EMS and fire departments in the case of an active shooter.

Tuesday, Robertson said the exercise was really good and highlighted some of the work WCS feels it needs to do this year.

WCS’ school resource officers (SRO) also do help the school corporation with its annual school safety audit of its buildings.

Some of the things WCS is continuing to work on is making access control to its school buildings an issue. The school corporation is working with staff members to make sure protocols are followed in regards to people gaining access to the buildings.

WCS also will be implementing a pilot of Raptor Alert at its first building Friday. Robertson said it is a communication device that’s meant to help aid and inform people during an emergency.

It helps school staff know exactly where students, staff and visitors are — and their status — during emergencies, among other things. School staff can access Raptor Alert from anywhere  on any web-enabled device.

Robertson also highlighted WCS’ partnership with the Warsaw Police Department by having four SROs introduce themselves: Roy Navarro, Phil Reed, Lewis Fuller and Brandon Zartman.

Navarro has been with WPD for eight years and going into his seventh year as a SRO at WPD.

Reed has been with WPD since 2009. He was a K9 handler for six years and was on the SWAT unit for eight years.

Fuller has been with WPD for 13 years. He has been at Lakeview for two years as a SRO.

Zartman said this will be his sixth year as a SRO and has been with the WPD just under 22 years.

Robertson said while WCS appreciates all “of our officers,” the SROs are really committed to safety in the schools in the school corporation.

Zartman said SROs are a resource for schools and students. He treats it as being a mentor to students and being a person for students to talk to. He said SROs serve many different roles in the school, not just being a police officer.

Navarro said SROs talk at the schools about different things, such as about law enforcement works and DARE.

Fuller said one of the number one priorities of SROs is the safety of students and staff at the schools. Part of that is developing relationship with students and staff. He said the four SROs that were at the Board meeting take their responsibilities seriously.

Board Vice President Randy Polston thanked Robertson for his leadership in regards to school safety. He said the world has changed and said he appreciates “our team of officers.”

Board President Heather Reichenbach said she thought it was a blessing to have the SROs in the school mentoring students and making sure everyone is safe.

“I just want to say thank you for your dedication to our school corporation and all you do for safety and security, mentoring” and making a positive impression of law enforcement on students in the corporation, said Board member Brad Johnson.

In other business, the topic of needing school bus drivers was discussed.

Human Resource Director Sheila Howe said WCS has not seen an influx of drivers yet. Transportation Director Mark Fick is getting creative with school routes so drivers don’t get burnt out.

There are signs telling people of the need of bus drivers. She said there are referral bonuses and sign-on bonuses available.

Board member Mike Coon suggested increasing the bonuses. Chief Financial Officer April Fitterling said she would agree if it was just a WCS issue, but it is a statewide issue.

Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert said on Monday, Aug. 15 school buses will be out picking up students. He said WCS is always recruiting and hiring. Hoffert also noted school bus drivers will be out Thursday and Friday practicing their routes.