The Shawnee Mission School District is looking to help area law enforcement agencies and fire departments fill their vacancies by offering training to interested high school students.
During the district school board’s monthly meeting Monday, John Douglass, the district’s director of emergency services, announced the early planning stages of a signature public safety program. A law enforcement component would begin in January 2017 while a fire/emergency medical technician component would begin in January 2018, although those dates are subject to change.
Superintendent Jim Hinson said the program came about earlier this fall after he was approached by Lenexa city officials about the difficulty they and other cities in Johnson County are having finding enough applicants to fill spots in their police and fire departments.
Given that the district already has professional preparation programs for culinary services and biotechnology, the proposed program could create a pipeline of graduates ready to move to the next level of emergency training, Hinson said.
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“It’s going to be a brand-new approach for us,” Hinson said after the meeting. “A part of the mission that we’re on is to address the needs that exist from the employers and, in this case, our cities are one of our employers.”
Douglass said he had no indication how many students would sign up for the program, which will likely be taught at the future Center for Academic Achievement under construction at 8200 W. 71st St. in Overland Park.
“A lot of it will depend on how we spell it out and market it,” Douglass said. “Right now, there is so much media coverage on police work that there is somewhat of a downturn. But I think if we offer it up as a very ethical and straightforward profession and opportunity to make a difference, I believe we will get a quantity and quality of applicants.”
In other business, the school board heard that the district’s new anti-bullying program has already generated more than 3,000 reports so far this year.
The district unveiled the “shortcut” application on student computers last spring, describing it as providing students and parents a quicker avenue for reporting bullying incidents than the previous online forms.
Douglass said that while a third of the reports were without merit and another third were anonymous or otherwise difficult to prove, the final third has provided safety officials solid information on which they could investigate and act.
He said the reports have, among other things, helped prevent suicides, alerted authorities to abuse at home and pointed to incidents of in-school bullying that school officials are now addressing.
“I think a lot of times for the kids it’s knowing that somebody is watching and paying attention,” Douglass said.
The school board also unanimously approved adding $145,000 to the $200,000 the district already budgeted this year to repair iPads and other Apple computer devices used by students, teachers and staff.
Hinson said the original $200,000 had been a guess as this was the first year the district handled the repairs itself instead of outsourcing them. The district oversees around 30,000 devices, around 14,000 of which were new iPads given to students at 28 elementary schools this school year.
“I think we’re really pleased at this point in time at the lack of issues that we have really had to deal with globally with over 30,000 devices,” Hinson said.
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