At Board Meeting, Covington School Leaders Emotional Discussing Safety
A meeting of the Covington Board of Education became emotional as the topic turned to school shooting.
Longtime board member Glenda Huff broke down as she talked about the issue, following the deadly school shootings in Parkland, Fla. and Benton, Ky.
Huff said that she is aware of the district's plan and strategy to keep children safe if such an event were to take place here, but she discussed whether there are any areas that need to be tightened up.
One issue that Huff referenced in particular was the use of secretaries to buzz visitors into schools while they also deal with other everyday incidents. Perhaps, Huff suggested, there should be dedicated door security.
Covington Independent Public Schools has operated without school resource officers this year.
"Parents trust us," Huff said. "I pray every day students are safe and come home safely."
If a violent event ever took place in Covington, Huff suggest that there should be a designated place for parents to find the latest news.
"I don't want it to be on the news that our building has been attacked," Huff said with emotion. "I don't want to go to a funeral of any of our kids!"
Board chair April Brockhoff and other members agreed.
Superintendent Alvin Garrison said many school officials went to a meeting in Newport recently to listen to a parent from the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012 when 20 children and 6 adults were gunned down. Having a designated meeting place for parents was one of the issues discussed.
"I think we need layers to protect our kids," Garrison said. "We need to know how to provide layers of protection. We can grow in this area and we intend to."
Discussion included a new system where doors automatically lock and have bulletproof glass in them. One such system could also flood the hallway with steam to deter a shooter.
Another suggestion was to have more than one person in charge during an event.
On February 20 a letter was set home to all parents and posted to the website, explaining that the district has safety procedures in place in all schools. It noted that all doors automatically lock and that visitors must be buzzed in and show identification.
The district has invested thousands of dollars in exterior lock systems and camera systems. Each Covington school has an emergency plan which has been reviewed by local first responders.
Director of pupil personnel Ken Kippenbrock, a former police officer and sheriff's deputy, oversees safety and security in the schools. He insists on training every employee in Covington Schools on what to do in an active shooter situation. The district also hosts regular meetings between Covington Police and the Kenton County Sheriff.
"We are always looking to strengthen our current safety methods," said Garrison. "Please know that we are committed to providing a safe learning environment for all our students."
Amarian Zyaire Henderson received his high school diploma. At what would have been his traditional graduation time, he found himself three credits short.
"We had a discussion, or argument, where I finally told him, you won't be a success if you don't attend school," said Doug Fruchtenicht, lead teacher at the Adult High School. "He came right back at me and (said), 'don't tell me I won't be a success. Can't nobody tell me I won't be a success!'"
Henderson started the day before Halloween and finished the day before Valentine's Day. Superintendent Garrison handed him his diploma and praised him for coming back and not quitting.
"I'm proud of you," Garrison told Henderson.
The board honored the Holmes Middle School wrestling team, which coach Jerry Cooper said was the most successful in school history. The team finished fourth in the conference, third at the Woodland Wildcat Classic, and fourth at the Twenhofel duals.
Four wrestlers advanced to the regional finals for the first time and six qualified for state.
At the state tournament, Dashaun Stevenson won the school's second title, while Taejuan Huff and Thomas Long finished fifth in their classes. The team finished fourth in the school division and eleventh among all teams at state.
Glenn O. Swing Elementary School's Starz Lego robotics team won first place for Gracious Professionalism and Core Values at the first Lego League robotics Kentucky State Championships held at Northern Kentucky University.
The team placed 25th out of 48 teams overall.
Glenn O. Swing also featured its cheerleaders who participated in the Northern Kentucky Cheerleading Coaches Association's competition in January. The team finished first in the elementary division, and won the elementary middle school spirit award.
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
Top photo: Amarian Zyaire Henderson receives his diploma from Superintendent Alvin Garrison (RCN)