Hello, Independence Families!
I hope that you and your loved ones are enjoying all aspects of this most wonderful time of the year! It’s been so enjoyable to see all of the festivities in our schools and our community. Independence really does the holidays well.
As we move towards our Christmas and winter break, I wanted to share with you some updates on school safety and security. While thoughts of school safety quickly move to the front of everyone’s mind with news of threats and incidents at schools in our area and nationwide, keeping our schools as safe as possible while also creating a warm and inviting facility is always a priority in our school leaders’ minds. We want to be as proactive as possible in keeping a safe environment, being diligent when reports of concerns are brought to our attention and reacting with appropriate measures when necessary.
One of the things I love most about our community is the collaboration between our city and school leaders. Mayor Kurtz and his team are always willing and eager to put energy into making the best environment possible for some of Independence's youngest residents - our students. This is most evident when it comes to our safety and security planning and initiatives. It is very common to see Police Chief Butler and Fire Chief Rega working together and with our safety and security teams. There is no question that our schools are better places because of their work with us.
Here are a few updates regarding specific areas of school safety:
School Resource Officers
We have been very fortunate to have two dedicated School Resource Officers (SROs). Specifically, we’ve loved our time working with Sergeant Brad Borowy and Patrolman Kevin Repicky. They are both excited about the new opportunities. Sgt. Borowy, who is in his 34th year of service, will be retiring from the Independence Police Department in early January and Ptlm. Repicky has been promoted to Sergeant this week! Both have been part of our school family for many years and will always be considered a Blue Devil.
We are very excited to be welcoming our new SROs, Ptlm. Jim Green at IPS and Ptlm. Troy Keegan at IMS/IHS. Both officers were hand picked for their new positions and are eager to make an impact in our schools. Officer Green has been with the IPD since 1998 and has served as a K9 officer and currently coordinates our Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) group. Officer Keegan has been with the IPD since 2004 and has served as a Field Training Officer (FTO) and has many years of experience coaching high school baseball and softball. Be sure to welcome them to our school family. And best of luck to Sgt. Repicky in his new responsibilities and Sgt. Borowy in his retirement.
We’re beyond excited about being a recipient for Governor DeWine’s K-12 School Safety Grant. We are slated to receive over $280,000 to significantly improve our video surveillance capabilities at each school. Assistant Superintendent Tom Dreiling and the District’s Safety Committee is in the planning stages of this work. We will have a more in-depth report in our spring IQ.
See Something, Say Something
In the horrible aftermath of school tragedies, there are often reports of friends, family, and observers who had seen concerning behavior of threats, social media posts, intimidating and alarming behaviors, and other potential red flags. We always want to encourage students, staff, and community members to practice the philosophy of “see something, say something.” If you, or your student directly observe concerning behavior, please reach out and report these concerns to your principal, the police, or me. We take every report seriously and are quick to engage with families to make sure our schools are as safe as possible and we are providing support when needed as part of our threat assessment processes. We work hand in hand with our Independence Police Department and have significantly grown our network of student and family supports. Sometimes, concerns are determined to be substantial and discipline and legal action is appropriately applied. Oftentimes, after being investigated, concerns are determined to be misunderstandings, rumors, or poor attempts at humor. While school leaders cannot share all of the details as we work through these processes, if you hear second or third hand about an incident and have concerns, please reach out to your principal with questions and remember that the rumor mill can be very harmful and disruptive.
Our district utilizes the Safe Schools Helpline for reporting concerns of student and school community safety.
Safe Schools Helpline:
Call: 1-800-4-1-VOICE (1-800-418-6423) ext. 359
Text: 66746, TIPS
I truly hope that these next couple of weeks are merry and bright and your hearts are full!
Yours in education,