Bexley News

Bexley Board of Education

Board taps leaders, talks school safety

Fey identifies top priorities as communication, safety planning

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Bexley Board of Education members reiterated their vote of confidence in veteran board member Carol Fey by electing her president of the panel for a second year.

The group met for the first time in 2013 on Monday, Jan. 14, without Superintendent Mike Johnson. He was absent due to illness.

Laura Lipsett, the district's curriculum director, also missed the meeting because of illness.

Board member Marlee Snowdon was elected vice president, a position she also served in last year. Fey and Snowdon are the most-senior members of a relatively 'green' school board, with both beginning their fourth year on the panel.

The vote was part of the school board's annual organizational meeting. It was followed by a brief regular monthly meeting, during which Fey and Snowdon were sworn into their positions by district Treasurer Chris Essman.

Both Fey and Snowdon were elected to the school board in 2009.

"First, let me say this. I am so proud to be working with Bexley because it's such a positive, steady ... place to be," Fey said.

Her priorities this year are to continue with a focus on improved communication between the district and the local community. The goal was a top priority last year as well.

Fey said the safety and security of students also will be a top priority this year, although school officials continually review the district's Safety and Crisis Management Plan on a regular basis.

"But we will be looking systemwide for improvements," she said.

A more-recent focus is the adoption of a new position that will oversee a number of cultural, social and emotional aspects of student health. Fey expects to have a job description completed and an individual in place to fill the position by the start of the 2013-14 school year.

On a final note, Fey said she was "surprised" by a recent report indicating that college graduation rates of Bexley alumni six years out were not higher.

According to data released last year by the district for Bexley High School's class of 2006, 82 percent of the graduates attended four-year colleges, and 8 percent went to a two-year institution. Of those who went on to college, an average of 60.8 percent earned a degree within six years.

Broken down, 50 percent of Bexley's male graduates who went off to college finished a two- or four-year degree, while 69.3 percent of the females who went off to a two- or four-year college earned a degree in those six years.

Fey said she would like the district and the board to focus on those statistics and work to improve them.

Board members took time during their regular meeting to discuss the school's security procedures in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in December. Johnson was to make a presentation. But in light of his absence, the board discussed several issues with Business Manager John Eikenberry, who summarized Johnson's report.

Since last month's events in Newtown, Conn., Eikenberry said the district has met with an architect to determine how Bexley can modify its buildings to enhance lockdown procedures and reviewed some training. He has also met with Bexley police about types of notification equipment that would compress reaction time.

"Like every other district, Bexley goes back and reviews its plans. We ask ourselves 'What could we do differently, or better?' " said Eikenberry.

Recent upgrades, such as the installation of some new security cameras, mean that law enforcement can determine very quickly how to react to a crisis in the schools. With the help of a consultant, the district is working on a security analysis of each building.

Last month, Johnson suggested that another new focus likely will be to shorten response time -- from the time a threat becomes apparent to the moment police arrive. Johnson told ThisWeek in December that response times can be reduced in Bexley, possibly by allowing for teachers to launch a lockdown if the threat is apparent to them -- not coordinating it through an administrator.

Board member Mike Denison mentioned several comments by working parents that he has heard, related to concerns about an apparent lack of security before and after school.

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