With the new school year set to begin this week, the Olentangy Schools Board of Education listened to a presentation on the district’s safety and security measures during last week’s board meeting.
The presentation was led by Director of Safety, Security, and Preparedness Joseph Suozzi and Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin. Suozzi began by pointing out the importance of preparedness for various situations, calling it the “big piece” of his title and responsibilities.
“Whatever we can do to prepare,” Suozzi told the board. “Hopefully, like an insurance policy, we never have to put this stuff in place, but it gives you some assurance that we do take this seriously.”
Suozzi highlighted the training activities conducted in the district over the past year, which included active aggressor training for bus drivers, custodial staff, as well as for teachers new to the district at the annual New Teacher Academy.
“It’s a three-year rotation that the state requires either a tabletop, functional, or a full-scale exercise,” he said. “This year, we did a full-scale exercise, and we based it around family reunification.”
According to Suozzi, each school in the district is also equipped with a Multi-Agency Radio Communication System, commonly referred to as MARCS, which offers the school a direct line of communication with the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office and the 911 emergency center known as DELCOMM at the press of a button.
“In the event of a worst-case scenario like an active aggressor situation, if that button gets pressed by any of our staff members, it’s an immediate response,” Suozzi said.
Communication within the district during an emergency situation has also been expanded thanks to what Suozzi called a “robust phone network” in the district.
“Anytime you dial 911 on a district phone, not only does it obviously connect to DELCOMM, we have an internal network where we have immediate notifications go to all the school resource officers, myself, the superintendent’s office, and it’s just sort of a close-the-loop system,” Suozzi added. “We also gave access to the 911 center. So, when I place a call to 911 here, they will know because it’s an IP-based system of what room number the call came from. We’re just always trying to utilize technology and how to tweak it to have a better response.”
Suozzi said another big element of prevention is the district’s assessment and care teams, which include threat assessment and behavioral intervention. He said the district is “way ahead” of the state’s mandate for those teams to be in place in every district by March of next year; OLSD’s teams were established in 2019.
Martin followed Suozzi by saying, “The relationship that we’ve got with this district and, frankly, with the other districts in the county that we provide school resource officers to, it’s a two-fold priority. It’s the safety of all our students and staff on school grounds, and second, it’s the safety education of students K-12 including from drugs, peer pressure, bullying prevention, self-defense, and gun safety curriculum.
“We believe, as you will also, that knowledge is power, and equipping students with skills and information helps build their self-esteem and empowers them. We think it creates the safest and best environment for learning.”
Martin ensured the board and the Olentangy Schools community that local law enforcement in Delaware County trains continuously so that “if the unthinkable happens, we’re prepared to respond swiftly and accurately.”
“Although many law enforcement professionals in Delaware County will never discharge their firearms nor be required to respond to a school shooting, we train as if it will happen,” Martin told the board.
Last week, the school resource officers completed a two-day training session dedicated specifically to resource officers, which included a table-top discussion and analysis of the shooting that took place at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas in May. Pistol and rifle scenarios via simulators were also part of the training, something Martin said is rare as the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office is one of the few agencies in the state with its own simulator.
Martin went on to say, “In 2021 alone, our 115 deputies completed 8,600 hours of training, which reinforces the fact that we think we have the best sheriff’s office in the state of Ohio.”
To access the full video, including all comments from Suozzi and Martin, visit www.olentangy.k12.oh.us and click the Board of Education tab.