Marshall County School Board May Add Safety Director Position

With mass shootings on the mind, Marshall County’s school administrators considered the possibility of a new position to better address situations in a worse case scenario.

Superintendent Jeffrey Crook developed the idea to begin exploring the district’s options after discussing it with district employees, he told the board Tuesday evening. Crook said he had been in contact with law enforcement agencies to address the schools’ protocol, but that still left room for uncertainty.

“One of the big things that worries me is, if we do have an active shooter on one of our properties, what will the police see when they respond?” he said. “It’s very important for all of us to be on the same page, so the police know what they will see on our staff.”

Crook said the position would also be the liaison between the district and parents in certain situations, such as with suspended students who may pose a security risk. That person also would be present at expulsion hearings.

“I feel it’s important to have someone who’s solely in charge of all of our safety plans, audits, crisis management, working with local law enforcement agencies,” he said. “This position would also be our trainer, have training on how to respond to an intruder.”

Additionally, Crook said, this person would be in charge of how the public uses school properties for emergency shelters. For example, McNinch Elementary is used as an emergency shelter in the event of flooding.

“Our kids in some schools are getting younger and younger … so we don’t want to be reactive,” Crook said. “We want to be proactive with our safety and security. We want to have one person focused on doing this.”

Board president Tom Gilbert said he agreed with the creation of the position to normalize the safety protocols in place in the county.

“By having a position like this in place it’s not going to stop an active shooter or something from happening in our school, but it will deter a person, for one, and more importantly, every student, every teacher at every school would be on the same page of what to do if we have a lockdown,” Gilbert said. “To me, that’s worth more than anything we can do.

“It’s happening all over the country,” he said. “Seventeen shootings already this year, as of our last meeting. This position would be one of the first in West Virginia. Marshall County leads the way.”

The qualifications would include experience in school administration and curriculum development, with law enforcement training, advanced graduate accreditation, grant writing and strong leadership skills preferred.

Crook said the plan to create a position was still in the initial phases. School officials don’t know when the position might be created, he said. At the same time, a projected salary for the position is also unknown.

He said the heavy qualifications sought for any applicants to the position meant the search would be a difficult one, and the board would need to determine what may need to be compromised on.

“This combination’s going to be very hard to find, someone with the West Virginia teachers and administrators certificate, with law enforcement experience,” Crook said. “That’s going to be extremely difficult to find. We need to find out which one would be the priority.”

Board member John Miller said he wondered if the position could be assumed by someone already employed by the district, with the duties folded into another position.

“Are there people here within the county office who could shoulder this, rather than create another $100,000 position?” Miller asked. “That’s why our school resource officers are there … They’re invaluable.”

Crook felt the task presented was too large to be assumed by an existing employee.

“Could we assign it? Yes, we can,” he said. But are they going to put forth all the effort? No. They could absorb it, but are we going to get what we need for our safety? No,” he said.

The board took no action, as the issue was only just brought up for discussion. They said they would return to speak further on the matter at a later date.