When you’re right, you’re right, and J.P. Bailey of Lawton is right. In his letter to the editor last Wednesday, he noted that close supervision and accountability could translate to management by fear. His comments were in response to my article about the Board of Education’s focus on accountability, and I used the Hawthorne Effect to predict the positive impact of their oversight. I failed to adequately emphasize, however, that the Board is Hawthorning me! Our Board expects clearer and more constant reporting from me, so they can confidently meet our community’s high expectations for LPS. This is first about greater accountability for the superintendent. As Vice President Carla Clodfelter said, “We need to see a measurable difference.” Our Board is demanding more, but I don’t fear high expectations, and I know our staff is ready.
I admit that increased accountability can be a bit scary, but the Board has identified one area that I hope everyone can support: safety and security. No single issue preoccupies the minds of parents or educators more. To ignore the issue would be foolhardy, but fortunately, LPS has led the state in school security. Thanks to the foresight of former superintendent, Barry Beauchamp and the Board of Education, the district established one of the few school-based police departments in the state. We cannot overestimate how integral the Lawton Public Schools Police Department (LPSPD) has become to our children’s safety over the years. They have become important members of our schools. Our kids know them by name, and these officers have quietly prevented countless security issues as they protect our district.
Under the direction of LPSPD Chief David Hornbeck, we have added significant security upgrades to make our police officers even more effective. The most visible to parents are the security entry systems and instant background checks required of all visitors, but these are only some of the more visible safety measures implemented. We have also increased our surveillance capabilities and upgraded critical equipment. Unfortunately, many schools that experienced terrible tragedies had similar measures in place, so the Board expects us to do more and do it better.
One of the most significant measures has been the addition of certified police officers to guard our elementary schools. We have had officers in our middle and high schools for years, but we are one of the few districts in the state to hire elementary officers. This year we are adding even more armed and certified police officers to guard our elementary schools. We considered a lot of options, but the best deterrent and defense will always be a trained officer on site. Elementary marshals will look a little different from the officers in the secondary schools, but they will be no less vigilant. In addition to this, we have ensured that every secondary school has an adequate police car, so our officers can quickly respond and assist elementaries as needed.
One of the more unique additions to the force this year will be our police dog, Cocoa Channel. She is trained to detect not only drugs but also gunpowder. Part of her role will be to protect and detect, but her most important role will be to educate children. Kids often need a good excuse to avoid peer pressure, and Cocoa will be a deterrent for many when they are pressured into bad behavior. In addition to Cocoa Channel, we have other security upgrades that we cannot share publicly without giving the bad guys too much information. We will be updating the Board of Education regarding some of these issues in our second board meeting in September. Meanwhile, please support the Lawton Public Schools Police Department and the Board of Education in their efforts to keep our students and staff safe at school.
For more articles by Tom, visit tomdeighan.com