EMC holds Inaugural Safety Summit in Elkhorn

EMC holds Inaugural Safety Summit in Elkhorn

By Tyler Dahlgren

Several times throughout the school year, the Eastern Midlands Conference holds executive council meetings, drawing superintendents and principals from the eight member districts.

When the council gathered early this spring, in the wake of the tragic Parkland, Florida school shooting, one thing was weighing heavily and collectively on their minds.

“We felt like the need to build up our baseline knowledge about school safety issues was never more urgent,” said Norris superintendent Dr. John Skretta.

Prioritizing school safety was unanimously agreed upon, and pieces began to fall into place in the formation of what ultimately would become the inaugural EMC Safety Summit, held on Thursday, June 21 at Elkhorn High School.

“It was a timely thing for us to do, and a beneficial, proactive step for the conference to take to convene for a day-long seminar focused on school and student safety,” Skretta said. “As a conference, we have always aspired to insure that we are doing our due diligence in gathering and sharing information.”

The day started with coffee, rolls and check-in at 8:30 and didn’t adjourn until 4. In between, presenters like NDE State School Security Director Jolene Palmer, Boys Town Media Relations Director Kara Neuverth and SROs from the Douglas and Lancaster County Sherrif’s Offices spoke on a wide variety of topics.

Skretta said it was Dr. Terry Haack, superintendent of Bennington Public Schools, who initially suggested such a program, which was planned to be wide-ranging.

“We thought taking a broad approach in putting together the summit would ultimately benefit everyone in attendance,” said Haack.

Each school in the conference was represented by as many as eight attendees, and no school sent fewer than four.

“When you look at the configuration of personnel who attended the summit, it demonstrates that, top to bottom, safety is everyone’s concern,” said Skretta, paraphrasing from Palmer’s message that morning. “We had everyone from classroom teachers to registered nurses to guidance counselors to school administrators who were enthusiastic participants in the day’s events.”

Attorney Josh Schauer from Perry Law Firm spoke after Palmer. In the afternoon, participants were given six options during two breakout session periods:

2:15 to 3:00 p.m. Break Out Session One

Facility Safety Assessment – [ALICAP Megan Boldt]
Stop The Bleed training [Bryan LGH Trauma Prevention – Heather Talbott]
Anti-Bullying & Social Media Awareness [Abbe Edgecombe Lancaster County SCIP]

3:10 p.m. – 3:55 p.m. Break Out Session Two

School Counselors & Mental Health Issues [Paul Kraus ESU; Maureen O’Donnel Arbor Family Counseling]
Stop The Bleed training [Bryan LGH Trauma Prevention – Heather Talbott]
Developing an Outline for your Crisis Manual [Leon Haith]

“The intent of the summit was to cast a pretty wide net that covered a lot of ground related to school safety issues,” Skretta said. “The day, and the scope of programming, is a clear example of how comprehensive school safety planning, preparing and execution needs to be.”

Skretta and Haack weren’t sure whether the safety summit is something that will be held on an annual basis, but both heard resounding positive feedback and felt a noticeable eagerness to absorb information from their colleagues.

Haack said he could see the summit taking place on an every three or five-year basis.

“People sometimes tend to view safety as a sidekick achievement, but we really are prioritizing school and student safety,” Haack said. “We want to keep everybody safe, whether that’s grandma and grandpa in the stands at a ball game, or a third-grader sitting in their desk in a classroom.”

Haack’s sentiment rings true at all eight schools in the Eastern Midlands Conference.

“That’s what the EMC Safety Summit reflects,” Skretta said. “There’s a real strong commitment from our superintendents and principals to insure that we have a safe and supportive school environment for students and staff.”