School Safety Spotlight Program

Overview of Recipients

- indicates an overall recipient for fiscal year.

Quarter 4 (FY-19)

Trey King, Sweeny ISD
Outstanding Individual Service

Trey King is a freshman at Sweeny High School and a dual credit student at Brazosport College seeking an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice. Trey serves on Sweeny ISD’s Safety Advisory Committee and Long-range Facilities Planning Committee. As a leader with the Office of Student Involvement, Trey is responsible for ensuring that students feel welcome and want to come to school each day. He is a certified CRASE Training instructor and will work with Sweeny ISD to provide training for district staff and students. Trey has worked with others to implement violence prevention programs such as Start with Hello Week. Trey serves on many groups and committees alongside district administrators and, as a student representative, influences safety measures through collaborative planning.

“I enjoy the opportunity to make a difference not only in my school, but also other schools in our area. I have had the opportunity to serve on multiple committees for Sweeny ISD, which allowed me to give a student viewpoint. I plan to continue my education at Sam Houston State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a master’s degree in Homeland Security Studies.” - Trey King

Joe Parks, Plano ISD
Positive School Climate/Prevention Programs

As Executive Director of Safety and Security for Plano ISD, Joe Parks, a retired police lieutenant and licensed attorney, developed the Campus Police Officer program (CPO) which sends officers into elementary and middle schools to provide visibility, security, and rapport with students and staff. Joe also started a project to enhance the security of senior high schools through PA system upgrades, door controls, and metal detectors. Joe helped to implement a notification system to alert staff and students via computers and mobile phones of emergency situations. He holds community meetings to address parent, staff and student concerns and has worked to create a contact group with the Collin County Sheriff’s Department and the five police departments within the PISD. Joe is constantly forward thinking about improving school safety.

“It is both an honor and a privilege to serve as the security director for Plano ISD, and I cannot imagine a more rewarding position in any field or profession. At the end of the day, there is simply no more important work than keeping our kids safe. I feel very fortunate to work with a team that is so dedicated to that mission, and a great sense of pride in making a positive impact on the safety and security of our campuses.” - Joe Parks

Larry Rodriguez
Outstanding Individual Service

As the School Safety Consultant for ESC Region 20, Larry Rodriguez has been involved in many initiatives to enhance school safety. He helped to establish the Handle with Care Program, which provides a true trauma-informed approach, allowing area law enforcement officers to directly notify school districts if they encounter a child during a police call. He facilitates numerous school safety workshops at ESC 20 and regular District Chiefs of Police and District Safety Directors meetings, allowing district staff to discuss school safety concerns and share best practices. Mr. Rodriguez is part of the San Antonio Fusion Threat Assessment Team and many other safety-related committees. His dedication to improving school safety and building relationships between schools and community partners has had a beneficial impact on schools throughout the region.

“What I enjoy most about my work are all the relationships I have developed through the process of implementing school safety within our region. I have meet so many wonderful people who are willing to share their time and knowledge to bring about a safer community. ” - Larry Rodriguez

Whitewright ISD PD
Collaborative/Community Partnerships

During the first year of Whitewright ISD’s police department, Chief Judy Sims and Officer Mike Stephens created a department that is professional, friendly, and safety driven. Whether providing an officer presence for safety, teaching a course to high school students about how to interact with peace officers, or serving as guest speakers in the Forensic Science class, they are always present for students and staff. The pinnacle of the year was the “Shattered Dreams” program, a simulation intended to help students make good decisions about drinking and driving. The program, which involved students, community members, the police department, a guest speaker, campus staff, parents, and a local youth pastor, was featured as a spotlight on KTEN news. Their work exemplifies school administrators and police officers working together to keep students safe.

“Working directly with the students and staff and actually observing firsthand the positive impact made has been the most rewarding experience.” - Chief Judy Simms

Wylie ISD, Pre-Check ID Card Program
Positive School Climate/Prevention Programs

When Wylie ISD added new buzzer/camera access control systems at all campuses, the district wanted to maintain its friendly and welcoming culture. To help manage the large numbers of parents who attend events during the day, Wylie ISD created a unique program: The Wylie ISD Pre-Check ID Card. This TSA-style pre-screening system reduces lines and wait times for parents to join their students for special programs and celebrations. Parents who wish to take part complete the standard district background check and are issued a photo ID. The district worked with its visitor-screening provider to create a barcode for each Pre-Check ID Card which enables personnel to quickly scan the card and keep a record of who enters the building.

“The schools belong to the community and our goal is to provide the safest possible environment while still welcoming parents who want to be involved in their child’s school life. The Pre-Check ID card is just one component of our comprehensive safety and security program and our parents have been great partners in helping make it a success.” - Dr. David Vinson, Wylie ISD Superintendent

“This program would not have been possible without our dedicated front office staff, our technology department and our district safety committee all working together. Based on their feedback, and parent responses, we are already looking at ways to improve the program for next year.” - Ian Halperin, who oversees safety and security for Wylie ISD

Jill Wilkinson and David Wellbaum, Midway ISD
Staff/Faculty Development and Training

Midway High School theatre teachers Jill Wilkinson and David Wellbaum helped to provide innovative and relevant safety and security training for Midway ISD. The teachers worked with theater students to develop, write, and enact four different safety scenarios at a district-wide training. Teachers rotated to observe each scenario and then responded according to the Standard Response Protocol. The training involved students, staff, administrators, school resource officers, and two local police departments. The interaction with students proved to be very useful in that it encouraged the district to include more students in safety and security efforts. After previously conducting table-top exercises for various scenarios, the district found that this event took training to another level.

“I am so thankful that I work for a District that takes school safety training seriously. When Dr. Jeanie Johnson approached us and asked for our program to be involved, she met with not only David Wellbaum and me, but also our students. This gave us the opportunity to listen to the students’ safety concerns and ideas. The students felt empowered to be a part of a training experience that covered everything from an active shooter to an allergic reaction. This was an intense training but using student actors allowed teachers to actually make the training more hands on and a powerful teaching tool.” - Jill Wilkinson

Quarter 3 (FY-19)

Mesquite ISD, #BestCareAnywhere
Positive School Climate/Prevention Programs

#BestCareAnywhere is a wrap-around counseling services program that encompasses promoting a positive, nurturing school culture; providing personal and social development for all students; preventing self-harm and harm to others; and providing the "best care anywhere." MISD counselors encourage students to change the odds in their favor and empower them to become resilient overcomers, choosing their own path with determination to succeed and positively impact the world around them. The program influences the safety and security of students through prevention. A collaboration with Texas A&M-Commerce provides free counseling for parents, students, and community members, and the culture of reporting students in crisis (by staff members and students) has increased MISD's ability to identify, assess, and manage student needs.

“I love that I get to be a part of a group of counselors who are committed to serving our students and fearless about re-imagining our model of school counseling in MISD. MISD Counselors own this counseling program, and are impacting students every day, embracing the many roles of their job and are shining examples of servant leadership.” - Kem Edwards, Director of Counseling Services

Dr. Cissy Reynolds-Perez
Outstanding Individual Service

Dr. Cissy Reynolds-Perez uses unique and innovative approaches to address school safety. As the principal of W.B. Ray High School in Corpus Christi, she implemented “Stop the Bleed” training for all sophomores; established “Bear-Time, an opportunity for students to share personal thoughts with an adult; started a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT); and encouraged student involvement in school safety through student-led panels. She is continuing her commitment to school safety in her new role as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction and Human Resources for West Oso ISD, by bringing many of these programs to her new district. Dr. Reynolds-Perez participated in the Governor’s roundtable discussions on school safety last spring and formerly served on the board of the Texas School Safety Center.

“I am blessed to live each day in the field of education where we have the unique and powerful opportunity to mold the extremely precious decisions that are literally transforming the next generation. The education and safety of our students are entrusted to us; therefore, we must guide our students with our wisdom and experience to make decisions that will make our world a much better and safer place.” - Dr. Cissy Reynolds-Perez

East Central ISD, EC Cares
Staff/Faculty Development and Training

East Central ISD established the EC Cares Committee to address the needs of students and families who were experiencing trauma. The multi-disciplinary committee meets monthly and takes a systematic approach to meeting the needs of students and families. Every department in the district is informed about the EC Cares protocol - "See and/or Hear Something-Say Something" - that empowers all staff to report a student, staff member, and/or family in need, and each campus has ongoing training on social and emotional learning. Participating students are tracked to ensure that their needs are met if they transition from one campus to another. The EC Cares approach to school safety is being informed and proactive with the goal of eliminating barriers to ignite HOPE and ensure academic excellence is reached in all students.

“Trauma doesn't stop at 4 or at graduation!”
“It Takes A Village to get a student from PreK to Graduation!”
“L2UB4R” (Listen 2 Understand B4 Response) - The EC Cares Team

Quarter 2 (FY-19)

Officer Roger Askew, Spring Hill ISD
Outstanding Individual Service

As part of a proactive approach to school safety, Officer Roger Askew developed a leadership class for young men who are considered at risk. Officer Askew serves as a mentor for these students and develops their trust which has resulted in improved attendance, homework completion, respect for authority, and behavior by the participants. By reaching these students at an early age, his goal is to keep them out of trouble and point them to success. Officer Askew also plays a key role in all areas of school safety.

“I enjoy building relationships with the students, getting to know them, and then being there for them. I have found, through my years as a School Resource Officer that I have a passion for working with the "At-Risk" students. I hold them accountable daily but also show them love when they need it. Many times, it feels like everyone has given up on them, but I'm there to prove to them that we have not given up and will continue to help them work toward being successful.” - Officer Roger Askew

Joshua Wadsworth and Pawnee ISD
Positive School Climate and Prevention Programs

Counselor, Joshua Wadsworth, led the implementation of inclusive and restorative practices intended to minimize student isolation and maximize student engagement. Pawnee ISD staff incorporate restorative dialogue in all interactions with students and expect students to use these practices as well. Students are given the opportunity to make meaningful and genuine amends for mistakes and to share feelings and experiences with one another in a setting that supports positive dialogue and reflective listening. The program also draws from research supporting the interaction of positive male role models within schools, offering opportunities for fathers to serve as volunteers. The dynamic of student-to-student and student-to-teacher empathy creates a bond that fosters a joint responsibility for the Pawnee ISD.

“I find my greatest satisfaction in the small successes our students display every day on campus - watching our eighth-graders sit with our pre-K students during lunch and engage in genuine conversation; sitting with students who have come to my office to resolve a conflict together; overhearing a group of students encouraging a classmate who has suffered some sort of academic setback. Each of these events foreshadows the abilities of our students to serve as leaders and difference-makers in their respective communities as adults. And it is exactly this sort of behavior that contributes to the healthy culture of our campus.” - Joshua Wadsworth, Counselor

Teen CERT Officers, Westlake High School Eanes ISD
Student/Peer-Led Groups and Programs

Teen Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Officers from Westlake High School have taught hands-only CPR, including how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), to staff and more than 1500 students in Eanes ISD during the past three years. The officers also coordinate safety teams, first aid, and crowd control measures for football games, calling for professional responders when needed. The Teen CERT Officers have worked with administration, police, EMS, community members and the district safety and health manager to have CERT programs approved. The Teen CERT Officers have made the student body more aware of safety concerns, mitigation plans, and have made an impact on the environment of the Westlake High School campus.

“My students continue to amaze me with their intrinsic passion for preparedness and their peer-to-peer training and accountability. They are driving this program and deserve this recognition. I am so proud of each of them.” - Jackie Uselton, CERT Instructor

Brazosport ISD and Stephen F. Austin Community Health Network
Collaborative/Community Partnerships

Since 2015, the Stephen F. Austin Community Health Network (SFACHN) has partnered with Brazosport ISD to provide five school-based health centers offering mental health services. These on-site centers remove the transportation barrier that some families face when seeking services, and no student is refused services based on the inability to pay. The collaboration enables school counselors to act proactively and make referrals that are preventative in nature. A third-party release form signed by the parent of a student attending SFACHN counseling sessions allows school counselors to communicate with the licensed professional counselor about how to best support the student’s treatment plan with the goal of helping individuals before a crisis occurs.

Luling ISD
Staff/Faculty Development and Training

Since 2016, the Luling ISD district leadership, individual campuses, school board, and local emergency management and law enforcement agencies have collaborated to ensure that every staff member (from the custodial staff to the Superintendent) attends 2 hours of Luling ISD’s personalized CRASE (Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events) training and repeats that training annually. Luling ISD has also placed “Traumatic Bleed Control” cabinets at every campus. The Luling ISD Traumatic Bleeding Control course teaches participants basic life-saving medical interventions. In 2018 the district implemented the Standard Response Protocol at all of its campuses and is working to implement the Standard Reunification Method into its recently updated Emergency Operations Plan.

“While we hope that staff never have to access the knowledge or implement the CRASE processes, it is imperative that our staff is prepared and feel confident in the plan. I receive the most positive feedback on the CRASE session each year from our administrators and staff. There is nothing more important than the safety of our students and staff and we will continue to proactively seek the most effective processes/resources/protocols to help ensure that Luling ISD is appropriately prepared.” - Erin Warren, Interim Superintendent

Dr. Joe Young, Dr. Hector Martinez, Mrs. Liesa Land - Brownwood ISD
Staff/Faculty Development and Training

The Brownwood Independent School District partnered with local law enforcement to conduct full-scale community active shooter exercises on school campuses. While law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, and the local hospital tested their response protocols, district leadership tested lockdown and reunification processes in coordination with local law enforcement. The district also partnered with the Brownwood Police Department to provide ALERRT’s Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training to all district employees. District leadership is actively engaged with local emergency responders in creating a safer school environment.

“The partnership we enjoy with Brownwood PD has allowed me to focus on our students’ and staff’s safety by utilizing highly-trained professionals. My heart takes great pride in the students and employees of our district, and helping provide them the safest schools possible is very comforting. The trainings have been coupled with intensive on-campus presence and visibility. Our students love having the officers on campus and it is a powerful component within our strong community.” - Dr. Joe Young, Superintendent

Officer Michael Stewart, Wylie ISD
Student/Peer-Led Groups and/or Programs

The P.O.L.I.C.E. (Practice of Leadership Integrity and Character Education) Club is an organization for Wylie ISD students in grades 9-12 that is sponsored by the Wylie Police Department's School Resource Officers. The club provides students a better understanding of the law enforcement profession from the local to the federal level and strives to develop student leaders. Now in its sixth year, the club currently has 85 members who will serve at more than 35 community events. The P.O.L.I.C.E. Club gives students a voice in dealing with issues in their schools. The club encourages students to form positive relationships with their School Resource Officers which makes for a more positive and safer school environment for all.

“These students have taught me over the years that the best officers are the ones who connect with their communities and take part in what we call ‘community policing.’ I have watched most of these kids since they were in fifth grade and a lot of them are seniors now. To watch them grow and become the amazing people they are and watch them sacrifice to give back to others, makes doing what I do the best job in the world. I can honestly say that these kids have made not only a huge difference in my life but in the lives of everyone they help.” - Officer Michael Stewart

Quarter 1 (FY-19)

Jayme Petersen, PALS Teacher, and Stephanie Jess, Student Council Sponsor, Brazosport ISD
Student/Peer-Led Groups and/or Programs

Students from the Brazosport ISD worked on a Prom Promise program to educate their peers, as well as parents and local businesses, about the dangers of drinking and driving. Students collaborated with the Bay Area Council on Drugs and Alcohol, Brazosport ISD Police, organization sponsors, campus administrators, and the District’s Prevention Coordinator to develop the knowledgebase needed to effectively provide education about the dangers of drinking and driving. Students selected prom weekend as their campaign focus because of increased peer pressure to drink during that weekend. Students brainstormed activities and then developed a plan, divided up tasks, assigned jobs, and carried out activities.

This was a direct effort to engage and empower students and community partners. This partnership was more than just consultation, but rather consisted of ongoing support between two student groups, district staff, and community partners to first build the students’ knowledge base and then enable them to take active roles in decisions about the project’s direction. Empowering students to learn and take action about issues that matter to them has a substantial impact on shaping school safety measures within the school community.

“What I liked about our Prom Promise was that our kids were standing in line to sign the Prom Promise card before we had even opened our booth! It was something our kids wanted to do….maybe the goodie bags we had assembled had something to do with it…but, the eagerness of our kids to sign and take selfies with the cards was great. Once the cards were signed, we attached them to butcher paper and hung them up at the actual Prom entrance to serve as a reminder of the Promises made. Prom Promise helped our parents to know their child would not drink and drive and helped our school know we were setting up our children to have positive lasting memories.” - Stephanie Jess, Student Council Sponsor

Ismael Castro, Emergency Operations Plan Manager, Socorro ISD
Staff/Faculty Development and Training

Mr. Ismael Castro is very passionate about school safety. His number one priority is to ensure that all stakeholders are trained in emergency operations, and he has gone above and beyond to make sure his district has the latest information on safety. He always makes himself available to attend community meetings, volunteers to present to parents, and most importantly makes it his personal responsibility to make sure that all students and staff feel safe.

Mr. Castro personally manages all 47 campuses to ensure all drills are completed with fidelity. He has implemented many best practices in the district’s drills such as recording videos, using students and teachers to show correct procedures and safety tips, that were used to train the students and teachers. He has also has worked with the district’s technology department to put all documentation of drills online to make sure his district stays in compliance. Mr. Castro does not miss an opportunity to attend city and state level meetings to collaborate and learn about strategies that he can bring back to help ensure continued safety throughout the district.

“I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to support and train teachers, school administrators, staff members, and district leadership in the implementation of the district emergency operations plan. The collaboration and the planning as a team are important aspects of keeping all SISD students and staff safe and prepared for any situation that may arise in our schools. The Socorro Independent School District has established a districtwide culture of school emergency preparedness through training and conducting emergency drills involving key members of our schools and community with a focus to Keep SISD Safe.” - Ismael Castro

Craig Bessent, Assistant Superintendent, Wylie ISD
Outstanding Individual Service

Mr. Craig Bessent has been a Texas educator for 38 year and recently has been the driving force in securing school safety personnel for his district. He assists with and creates school safety training in the community with local law enforcement. He collaborates with law enforcement departments across the state of Texas to provide school safety training and uses his training to provide evidence-based practices. Mr. Bessent served as a member of Governor Abbott's Roundtable on School Safety and as an advisor to the Texas Senate and House of Representatives on safety in schools and homeland security. Mr. Bessent has been the guiding force in school districts adopting a school safety program and employing school marshals. Wylie ISD is grateful for the program he has developed to keep the students and staff safe.

“Creating and maintaining a safe school environment is one of the most important steps in creating a positive school climate. The long-term results of that safe culture can improve learning performance as well as aid in crisis intervention and possibly reroute students that may be on a pathway to violence.” - Craig Bessent

Bastrop ISD PD
Collaborative/Community Partnerships

The School Safety Symposium provided information related to promoting school safety and strategies to immediately and effectively address school safety situations. Under the direction of Bastrop ISD PD Chief of Police, Jeffrey Yarbrough, the approach to bring all stakeholders together was an effective and innovative tool to encourage collaboration. What occurred at the symposium allowed stakeholders invested in school safety to collaborate with one another, share information and ideas with others, and develop strategies and programs in advance of an emergency.

“What I found most rewarding about the School Safety Symposium was the willingness for law enforcement and school district leaders from around the State of Texas to come together in Bastrop, Texas, for a cause that is most important to all; the safety of our children. Santa Fe ISD Police Chief Walter Braun and Assistant Chief Gary Forward willingly shared their heartbreaking experience with us so that we could learn from it and improve school safety response protocols and procedures. DPS Sgt. Richard Adkins and Trooper Maurio Arce provided valuable input from that of a responding non-school district police perspective. Their input helped us to identify and close security gaps that might have existed between schools and outside law enforcement agencies.” - Chief Yarbrough, Bastrop ISDPD

Officer Robert Ferdin, Losoya Middle School Police Officer, Southside ISD
Positive School Climate/Prevention Programs

Officer Robert Ferdin is committed to creating a safe and positive learning environment which encourages and empowers students to be positive role models, build a sense of community, prevent bullying/cyber bullying, learn conflict resolution, and transition into young adults. Officer Ferdin is passionate about helping all students, especially students at-risk. Growing up as an at-risk student himself, he is making every effort to establish a positive learning environment for all students and staff and instill leadership qualities with a focus on education.

Officer Ferdin founded and established KipC (Kids Influencing Positive Change) to promote health and fitness, positive attitudes, and team building, especially for at-risk students having difficulty socially, emotionally and/or behaviorally. Students apply and interview to take part in three areas of the program – KipC Leadership, Safety Patrols, and the Run/Walk Club. Approximately 150 students participate in the program. KipC is unique as it includes student leadership development, safety patrols to instill a sense of belonging and community volunteerism, and an opportunity to build the student socially-emotionally through physical activity and fitness.

“KipC (Kids-Influencing-Positive-Change) creates a supportive environment that allows children to focus on learning and developing new skills, while giving them a sense of belonging.” - Officer Robert Ferdin

Boerne ISD
Positive School Climate/Prevention Programs

The Boerne ISD has partnered with a new coalition, the Boerne Coalition of Resources and Resilience, to develop a series of resources and wellness programs with the goal that all community programs work together for children and teens to prevent problems before they start and assist youth and families that are encountering mental health or substance related problems.

The Boerne ISD Suicide Prevention Plan, Protocol, and Training is an extremely comprehensive, written plan that is used throughout the district, by students, staff, administrators, and counselors. It was developed by a steering committee comprised of community members, parents, representatives of all campuses at all levels, and students. It utilizes prevention beginning at the elementary grade levels, annual training on suicide and early signs of mental health issues for all staff and faculty (not just new faculty, as required by the legislature), and includes parent and student training on recognizing and helping students who may report signs of suicidal risk.