(Photo by Leonna Heuring, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Southeast Elementary students in first through fourth grades know him as their math teacher, but elsewhere in the Sikeston R-6 School District, Scott Ezell is known for keeping students and staff members safe.
Ezell, who has a background in emergency management, is in his first year as the district's safety coordinator.
"I thoroughly enjoy the position," Ezell said. "... It is tough at times and tough meaning the content that I deal with -- bullying, kidnapping and natural disasters -- is very serious."
Every school district in Missouri must have a safety coordinator. Many school districts offer the position to two or three staff members who share the role while some may offer it to a retired administrator hired to work part-time.
Either way, ensuring safety in a district is an important job, Superintendent Steve Borgsmiller said.
"Not only are we an educational environment but we're also obliged to provide a safe environment for the children, which is something often forgotten about," said Borgsmiller, who was the district's previous safety coordinator.
As safety coordinator, Ezell is responsible for making sure the district's safety program is comprehensive, proactive and systemic. Areas covered in the program include Missouri Safe Schools Act compliance, emergency management and preparedness and violence prevention.
"It's so broad that it's very hard for one person to do," Ezell said.
That's why Ezell said he relies on the superintendent and other department directors, such as maintenance and transportation, to offer insight.
"Scott has brought to the table a lot of things that we haven't thought of in the past --things we often tend to overlook," said Mike Brown, R-6 director of buildings and grounds. "He's very thorough in his thinking."
Brown said what his department and others throughout the district try to do is supply Ezell with the information he needs to prepare plans. For example Brown works with systemics and locations of the buildings and utilities.
Brown, Ezell and another district employee recently looked at the security system at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill.
"We went to their facility and got a chance to talk to the people involved in their security and could possibly use those same technologies at our school," Brown said.
One safety resource for students, staff and members of the community is the School Safety Web page, said Ezell, who revamped it a bit by adding more information.
"There's a lot of good information on there," Ezell said.
Parents can learn what they can do to better prepare for an emergency and what to do should a disaster occur. Information about bullying, Internet safety, district plans, emergency preparedness and tons more.
"We are prepared," Ezell said. "We're always continue evaluating our system and our training is ongoing."
If a major earthquake or other disaster hit while faculty and students are at school, the first priority is to secure the well being of the students until they're reunited with parents," Ezell said.
Sikeston R-6's emergency response plan is aligned with the city of Sikeston, New Madrid and Scott counties and the state, Ezell said. Ezell also works with Missouri Delta Medical Center, where some of the high school nursing students attend.
Even if a disaster occurred when no one was at the schools, the district has a plan in place, Ezell said.
"Our goal is to get things back up and running as soon as possible," he said. Parents who have questions about emergency plans should contact their child's building principal.
Meanwhile, Ezell said he's working on several goals for next year.
Some of these include installing more emergency preparedness items in schools and putting the district's emergency plans on the Department of Homeland Security's Web site so it's easily accessible for other entities should a major disaster occur.
Ezell is currently devising a series of training videos complete with narrative and interviews for the district's staff.
"All schools must conduct drills but in between time, the videos can be refresher for them," Ezell said.
Already Ezell has attended regional, state and federal conferences about safety and emergency planning for schools.
"It can be overwhelming," Ezell said about his job. "It's not stressful because I have so many good people to help."
For more information about the district's school safety and emergency management, visit www.sikeston.k12.mo.us. Click on "school services" and then "school safety."