Watson Chronicle


Education Updates and Features

Safer Schools Task Force Releases Report

Friday, January 24, 2014

Last year, after the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., community leaders held a summit to discuss ways to make schools safer in the greater Wilmington area.  They agreed to be proactive, not reactive and to engage the community in a united effort to keep schools and students safe.

Shortly after the summit, District Attorney Ben David and Chief District Court Judge J. Corpening created a Safer Schools Task Force of New Hanover and Pender County.  The 20-member group, made up of educators, researchers, social workers, school counselors and social workers, studied the issue for months and issued their findings and recommendations on Dec. 11.

Key task force recommendations include adhering to national standards for personnel caseloads, establishing a clear career path for school resource officers, expanding health services available to students and hiring someone to oversee implementation of the recommendations.

Janna Robertson, WCE professor and member of the task force, says the group agreed to focus on prevention and relationships, with law enforcement involvement as a last resort. Robertson says there are some strong programs in place in area schools, but teachers and administrators are spread thin and caseloads for many school social workers have become unmanageable. As a result, not all students are receiving the services they need.

“We need to consider the social and emotional needs of students as well as academics,” Robertson says.  “And succeeding there really comes down to one word: ‘relationships’. “

Deloris Rhodes, Watson College outreach liaison, also served as a member of the Safer Schools Task Force, and Tom Barth, professor, UNCW public administration, was the facilitator.

The task force acknowledges that implementing some of its recommendations will require additional funding.  Chip Hughes, chairman on the Governor’s Task Force on Safer Schools, attended the Dec. 11 task force presentation and pledged his support, saying New Hanover and Pender are far ahead of most counties in the state in addressing the safer schools issue.

The full report is available here http://saferschoolstaskforce.weebly.com/report.html

View press coverage of the Safer Schools Task Force recommendations and presentation:

StarNews article Dec. 10

PortCityDaily.com article Dec. 10