School safety is top priority

Alpena Public Schools is committed to continuously improving our ability to provide a safe and secure environment for our students, staff, and anyone who we welcome onto our campuses.

As superintendent, I hold safety and security as my highest priority — in fact, I/we say it all the time, “The safety and security of our students and staff is the top priority for the school district.”

But what does that mean, exactly?

Every year, school districts are required by law to conduct fire, tornado, and lockdown drills. We are also required to create an Emergency Operations Plan in conjunction with local public safety officials and review that plan with them annually. Beyond that, public school districts are not required to do much else in the area of safety and security.

I am here to tell you that your local school district is going far beyond those basic requirements to ensure the safety of our students, staff, and visitors. And, while I am writing from the perspective of the superintendent of Alpena Public Schools, I can assure you that the leaders of Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District (AMA ESD), Alpena Community College and Alcona, Atlanta, and Hillman community schools are going far beyond the basic safety and security requirements also.

How do I know? Because I have been working alongside those outstanding leaders and the exceptional leaders in public safety as a member of the Northeast Michigan School Safety Collaborative, a first-of-its-kind collaborative effort that began in October.

This is a unique effort because it includes organizations from multiple counties working together regardless of political or geographical borders. We recognized that, in an emergency, response and support would come from all over the region, and, therefore, we should work together as a region to plan and prepare.

The goal of this group was to work together to make sure that our schools and organizations were safe and secure. We realized that, in order to achieve that goal, we needed to work together and have the right people at the table.

The original meeting consisted of seven leaders representing AMA ESD, Alpena Community College, Alpena Public Schools, Alcona, Atlanta, and Hillman community schools, and emergency management from Alpena County. In the months since, the group has grown to include all of our area emergency managers, leaders from all of our law enforcement agencies, leaders from our local fire departments, and our area prosecutors.

The group has met at a minimum monthly since October to review our Emergency Operations Plans together, receive input from public safety authorities, share best practices, hear from experts, and routinely commit to improving our ability to provide a safe and secure environment in our schools.

Administrators from each of the organizations engaged in 12 hours of online training from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security providing an introduction to the Incident Command System. As well, the group has focused on providing a unified message and information to the community and our students on important topics such as school threats and how to report concerns around safety and security.

Each district is taking steps to make its facilities more secure.

In Alpena Public Schools, we have been implementing the Safe, Warm, and Dry Bond, which includes upgrading the secure entrances to every building in the district. We have also been using federal coronavirus relief funding to make allowable improvements. We have been improving the infrastructure that allows us to monitor what is going on in any particular building and the systems that will help us communicate effectively in the event of an emergency. We are also arranging additional training for our staff so they are better prepared to make the right decisions in emergency situations.

As a superintendent, I have been overwhelmed by the support for this effort from those who have joined us along the way. I have been so encouraged that, whenever I talk about this effort with our leaders in the community, the response is the same: “What can I do to help?”

As a parent of five Alpena Public Schools students, I sleep easier knowing that my children and yours are being watched over by such dedicated and caring people.

Dave Rabbideau is the superintendent of Alpena Public Schools. During his 20-plus-year career in public education, he has served as an elementary teacher, building principal, and central office administrator. Mr. Rabbideau is currently completing his doctorate in Educational Leadership at Oakland University.


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