SJSD makes safety a priority ahead of school year

·3 min read

Aug. 5—As students, parents, teachers and staff prepare for the start of school, school security is a hot-button issue.

Shannon Nolte has served the SJSD for more than two years after coming to the district with nearly 20 years of administrative work and 17 years in the classroom prior to that. His role this year is new to him, though: He is the director of nonacademic student services. One of the many nonacademic areas he oversees is school safety.

"It is our top priority. It does support learning, which is the major thing we're here to do," Nolte said.

Nolte oversees a large team that includes Student Resource Officers (SROs) in each school, as well as building managers for each building.

"We have new entrances in all of our buildings that are safe and secure (as well as) a lot of new technology that has been brought with our cameras and camera systems," he said.

He adds there have been a lot of efforts over the past few years to make sure both the technology and the training are up to date.

The goal, he notes, is to keep students and staff as safe as possible, to ensure a strong learning environment.

Nolte, who has served as a school superintendent, a principal and a classroom teacher before his current role, is aware that many are often surprised at how many "nonacademic" elements are involved in facilitating academic success. Transportation is an example. He urges parents who will utilize the bus system to get students enrolled online, so they can be included in the bus routing system for the new school year.

With the "First Student" bus system coming in, safety has also been an ongoing topic of conversation and preparation. "First Student" will bring in some new technologies, including student finder technology. This will allow parents to track the bus and keep up with the location of their students.

In all of these areas of nonacademic oversight, the ongoing priority is safety.

"We want to provide support to building administrators, so that they can provide the teachers and the students with the best experiences possible: the safest, the most positive," he said. "Whatever we can do to make their jobs easier in the buildings is what we want to strive to do."

The key to this, Nolte said, is effective and clear communication. He said that communication is always the most important emphasis because of the extensive network of nonacademic services provided to students and staff. In addition to building matters, security and travel, student counseling and health also fall under the banner of nonacademic services. A district safety committee, which Nolte oversees, meets consistently to ensure each area of service is healthy and available.

In addition to the sheriff's office, police department and emergency management, the school district fosters partnerships with Mosaic Life Care and social services. These ongoing partnerships make a big task more manageable, according to Nolte.

"It's a big task, and it seems a little overwhelming, but again, I think the biggest thing is ... communication." This consistent communication, "gets us through it," as he said, so that students and staff or safe and have the resources needed to make learning easier.

Administrators and teachers are already planning and meeting together to get ready for the school year. School starts for St. Joseph students on Monday, Aug. 22.

Charles Christian can be reached at charles.christian@newspressnow.com. Follow him on twitter: @NPNowChristian.