Safety, security to be focus of Mehlville’s next COMPASS session

Facilitating Team’s recommendations will contain ‘no frills,’ Fowler says

By BURKE WASSON

Early in the Mehlville School District’s public-engagement program, participants often mentioned safety and security as a viable concern.

At the next community-engagement session, the entire evening will be devoted to that issue when Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Brian Lane presents a summary of the school district’s safety and security on a variety of levels and in comparison to other districts.

That session is scheduled for 7 p.m. Mon-day, Feb. 11, at Bernard Middle School, 1054 Forder Road, and is part of the district’s public-engagement program, COMPASS — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools.

Lane said while many people often equate a school’s safety and security as a prevention of violence, there also are many more aspects to consider.

“We’re going to talk a little bit about how safe are schools in general?” Lane said. “There’s a lot of misconceptions from what we see in media and from everything else … Then I’ll go on and talk about what are all these potential hazards that we need to be prepared for and keeping our kids safe in schools.

“I’m going to go into several different types of situations and hazards that we have to look out for. There’s a lot of great quotes out there, but just how society’s view of safety in school is just focused on violence is deceptively narrow. It’s so much more than that about keeping our kids not only physically safe, but also emotionally safe in schools. And so I will also talk quite a bit about those elements. It’s not just about kids being safe. Of course, that’s priority one. But it’s also about kids feeling safe. And that’s going to be part of my focus.”

Lane also was scheduled Monday — after the Call went to press — to present a draft of his presentation on safety and security to the COMPASS Facilitating Team, which is comprised of residents, employees, school-board members and students.

Given that safety and security has been identified as a priority at previous COMPASS sessions, Lane said he hopes to show a complete picture of the district’s current levels to its residents.

He added that participants at the next community-engagement session would be asked to determine what they believe are the most important elements of safety and security in the school district.

The Facilitating Team also was set Monday to consider another revision of the schedule for COMPASS sessions.

Facilitating Team co-chair Dan Fowler said COMPASS organizers would like to see a presentation of the district’s instructional programs and services originally scheduled for March pushed back to April. That would mean that the district would schedule no COMPASS sessions in March and have two sessions in April.

“They need more time to put solid numbers together as to what it’s going to cost to do everything that the community has talked about to us,” Fowler said. “And so Monday night when we go to this meeting, (Facilitating Team co-chair) Jim (Schibig) and I are going to be asking the Facilitating Team for more time. We’re going to get it done in April. In other words, we’re going to have our final presentation in April, but we’re going to push. We may ask them to do facilities and instruction on the same night. And maybe instead of having a meeting in March, we may have two community-engagement sessions in April.”

Fowler emphasized that the overall timeframe for COMPASS, which is slated in June to have its last session identifying recommendations to the school board, would not be delayed.

“The overall process would not be pushed back,” Fowler said. “But the timing of some of these particulars will be because . . .it’s an enormous project. In order to get their arms around and to marry the two together … that’s the other problem. It’s to marry the instructional with the facility side together. And to get good numbers, we just simply need more time to do that.”

In January, the Facilitating Team pushed COMPASS into the summer to accommodate the need for more research and more time to study the community’s recommendations from each COMPASS session since the beginning in April 2007.

The Facilitating Team tentatively is scheduled to present its final recommendations to the Board of Education in July.

Fowler reiterated last week that any recommendations offered by the Facilitating Team to the school board would have to be conservative with “no frills.”

“I think that the ultimate plan that is presented to the Board of Education will be a very conservative plan, but also a plan that will take the district forward,” Fowler said. “I think it will be a conservative plan that the community will find acceptable. It will also be a plan, though, that will take the district forward. But it’s going to have a long time frame to get there. So, in other words, I think that you’re going to see stages.”

Fowler also added that the Facilitating Team would be presented with three different scenarios regarding property-tax funding of any recommendations the team would assemble.

These options include funding the plan with the “status quo” of property taxes, with a no-tax-rate-increase bond issue and with a restoration of the district’s 2006 tax rate.

The Board of Education voted last August to drop the district’s blended tax rate of $3.2731 per $100 of assessed valuation for the 2007-2008 school year from $3.6443 per $100 of assessed valuation for the previous school year, a decrease of 37.12 cents.

“The Facilitating Team members are going to have several different options to look at regarding the funding,” Fowler said. “Everything from status quo to a no-tax-in-crease (bond issue) to restoring the tax rate back to 2006. In other words, where the tax rate had been if they had not rolled it back. So that’s the thing we’re looking at right now to bring to the Facilitating Team.

“But it’s ultimately their call. And we’re going to take this back to the community (in June). Before we go to the Board of Education, we want our community to take another look at it. That is the reason why we want good, solid numbers to be able to present. And we won’t have those numbers until April. And once we have those numbers, we’re going to go back to the community and say ‘Here it is. Give us one more shot. And what do you think?’ And then we’ll go to the Board of Education. But I can guarantee you this. It will be a conservative plan because we live in a conservative community. And that’s what they expect.”