Akron schools install panic buttons, focus on student behavior

Jul 31, 2014 by

Panic buttons — the kind a bank teller pushes to trigger a silent alarm during a robbery — are the latest safety measure in Akron schools.

The buttons, to be installed in or near every school’s main office, we’re approved by the school board this week amid nearly $700,000 in expenses dedicated to the safety and security of students and staff.

The panic buttons, at $30,242, provide a direct link to police and emergency services. Pushing a button ­­­­— instead of making a phone call or using emergency radios installed in every school last year — should shave a couple minutes off of the average five-minute response time. The cost is said to be well worth it.

“People never want to pay for security unless something happens. It’s nice that we are being proactive and actually done pretty affordably,” said Dan Rambler, director of Student Support Services.

The school board also renewed an all-call system, used to notify parents in emergency and non-emergency situations, and a central alarm, which gathers detailed information from building-level fire and other alert systems.

Total cost for the measures is $50,700. The district also pays $600,000 in salaries for school resource officers (SROs). The Akron police officers work in every middle and high school. The police department picks up their benefits.

The officers build relationships with students, police the hallways and provide educational programming on staying safe in and out of school. Rambler said he is working with other administrators to introduce these officers in elementary schools, fostering early the amicable relationships that establish trust and cooperation.

“Kids know them. They’re able to talk to them and give information,” Rambler said. “It just changes the perception of what police officers are to these kids … A lot of our kids look at police officers as the enemy, because a lot of times police officers only come when something bad happens.”

The resource officers work to maintain a peaceful educational environment, positively impacting what Rambler and other educators call school climate.

The district hired a school-climate coordinator last year to bridge the two concepts. The year before, school board members approved new positions called deans of students. It’s like an assistant principal who works mostly with student discipline and enforcing positive behavior.

These positions were expanded this week as the administration hired an additional 19 employees, totaling $2 million in additional wages.

A quarter of that cost will pay for teaching coaches in literacy. as the federal government announced over the summer that it will cut $600,000 in Title 1 funds. The rest is split between staff, who will support higher learning standards and gifted education, and building administrators, including three assistant principals — who fill in at elementary schools that have swelled in enrollment as the district consolidates — and four deans.

Three deans at elementary schools will assist principals, who are increasingly concerned with classroom instruction, in building management and school climate. A fourth dean will work at Kenmore High School this fall, with the goal of boosting attendance at Akron’s most poorly attended high school by making home visits and sweeping the neighborhood for truant students.

The Kenmore dean also is expected to link community supports with at-risk teenagers in a high school where dozens of students were arrested last year after brawling at a football game and in a Kenmore hallway.

via Akron schools install panic buttons, focus on student behavior – Local – Ohio.

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