STOCKTON, Calif. — With hours left until some 40,000 Stockton Unified School District (SUSD) elementary and high school students return to campuses for the fall semester, district officials are reemphasizing safety as a priority for the new school year while recognizing some changes are needed.
Those changes were outlined in a new report by an independent consulting firm which found some safety plans at Stockton's largest school district were out of legal compliance and outdated.
"We must make students' safety, we must make students feeling loved and nurtured and a part of a school community, our first priority," Interim Superintendent Dr. Traci Miller said Thursday. "We can't change the past, but what we can do for the future is to make any improvements we can."
In the presentation -- one of two scheduled to go before the board by the end of the year -- representatives from Rockeye Consulting Services said individual school site plans were not up to date or compliant with state laws, specifically standards set forth in California's nearly two-decade-old SB-187.
At the same board meeting Tuesday, trustees voted unanimously to reinstate the position of Emergency Services and School Safety Program Coordinator. The safety program coordinator position is responsible for managing the district's emergency preparedness program, oversight of school safety plans and assisting as a key liaison during emergencies, according to district documents.
The position was eliminated by board members during a Feb. 2021 meeting. Five trustees who initially voted to eliminate the positions in 2021 voted Tuesday to reinstate it.
Over a year after the position was eliminated and just six days after the consultant firm was hired by the district, 15-year-old Stagg High School student Alycia Reynaga was fatally stabbed at school after an intruder entered the SUSD campus through an open, unmanned gate.
"We are about constant improvement, and if there's things that are holes, we must address those," Miller said. "I'm not afraid of that report, and I say thank you to the board for bringing back the safety coordinator position so that becomes a top priority to addressing any of the holes that might exist."
The consultants will focus on updating emergency maps, developing an emergency operations center for the district, conducting emergency drills, and training staff members on safety policies.
The consultant firm's changes and training sessions are expected to be finished before January.
At Stagg High School specifically, Miller promised in the new school year to staff the school's front gate at all times during school hours, to add new wrought iron fencing around the high school campus, and to keep school resource officers on campus.
"We are about doing everything we can to make this an environment in which students and parents can rest assured, the adults are taking safety and security seriously," Miller said. "The adults in this organization are working around the clock to make sure our facilities are clean, to make sure our teachers are ready. Again, we're not going to be perfect, but we are committed to putting the past behind us and making Stockton Unified that light and beacon that I know we can be for our community."
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