Lawmakers, Educators Join Wilder School Discussion About School Safety and Education Policy
By Pamela Stallsmith
The Wilder School convened legislators, public safety officials and educators from across the state at two events on April 23 to examine school safety in Virginia and to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute.
The Forum on School Safety in the Commonwealth, held in the afternoon, was jointly sponsored by the Wilder School’s Center for Public Policy and the Office of the Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.
“We are thrilled to be able to partner with Secretary Brian Moran’s office on these important topics of improving safety and education in our commonwealth,” said Robyn McDougle, Ph.D., interim director of the Wilder School’s Center for Public Policy. “This aligns directly with our mission to share research that informs public policy.”
Focus on School Safety
School safety has emerged as an issue of national concern since the February shootings of 17 students by a teen at a high school in Parkland, Fla.
“Since Parkland, there has obviously been a renewed focus and attention to this issue,” Moran said. “This is not necessarily something new, but with a situation like Parkland, we welcome the renewed attention. We want to make sure that our schools are safe.”
Virginia continues to be a leader in school safety through the Department of Criminal Justice Services’ Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety, he said, “but we must continue to develop strategies to ensure a safe learning environment for our children moving forward.”
Grant Rissler, Ph.D., assistant director of the Wilder School’s Office of Public Policy Outreach— located in the Center for Public Policy—shared the results of its Summer 2017 Public Policy Poll that showed that 79 percent of Virginians feel that public schools in their communities are safe or very safe, while 69 percent feel that way about safety on the state’s college and university campuses.
Donna Michaelis, manager of the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety, gave presentations about threat assessments and school resource officers, which panelists agreed were key to the prevention of shootings and other threats in schools. About 80 percent of high schools across Virginia have full-time school resource officers, while nearly 70 percent of middle schools do.
James Keck, an assistant professor of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness at the Wilder School, moderated the session, “Threat Assessment Teams in Virginia: Where Are We Now and Where Are We Headed?”
Panelists included Stewart Roberson, Ed.D., former superintendent of Hanover County and Falls Church public schools and now chairman and president of Moseley Architects; Dolores Robison, Ph.D., supervisor of threat assessment with Prince William County Public Schools; Bryan Carr, coordinator of school counseling services with Chesterfield County Public Schools; and Marisa Randazzo, SIGMA Threat Management Associates.
Moran moderated a panel, “Roles and Responsibilities of School Resource Officers in Virginia: Where Are We Now and Where Are We Headed?” Panelists included Delegate Steve Landes of Augusta County, chairman of the House Education Committee; William V. Pelfrey Jr., Ph.D., associate professor at the Wilder School; John Kimenhour, school resource officer, Chesterfield County Police; Holly Coy, deputy secretary of education; and John Fowler, assistant principal, Chesterfield County Public Schools.
“Agencies must make careful decisions when identifying and selecting school resource officers,” Pelfrey said. “The right officer can relate to young persons and will build productive relationships. Conversely, the wrong officer can alienate students and foster a lifetime of mistrust.”
The Legacy of Bill Bosher
In the morning, CEPI’s 2018 Legislative Conference reviewed key education legislation from this year’s General Assembly session and paid tribute to William C. Bosher Jr., Ed.D., who founded CEPI and served as executive director and distinguished professor of public policy and education at the Wilder School until his death in December 2014.
Dr. Bosher had a remarkable career. Among his many leadership roles, he served twice as state superintendent of public instruction and was also superintendent of Henrico County and Chesterfield County public schools, as well as a former dean of the VCU School of Education.
He had a tremendous impact on Virginia students, said Robert Holsworth, Ph.D., managing partner of DecideSmart, who spoke of Dr. Bosher’s educational policy legacy.
“He helped to build a system of choice with public schools that gives an extraordinary range of opportunities for students,” Holsworth said. “You can’t talk about education unless you talk about public policy.”
The session also included words of greeting from Dr. Bosher’s son, Matthew Bosher.
Education Public Policy
Roberson, the former superintendent of two school divisions, moderated the morning panels.
During the first panel, “Education and the 2018 General Assembly Session,” participants listed teacher licensure and school discipline regulations as among the most important education-related bills. Panelists included Delegate Landes; Del. Lamont Bagby of Henrico County, a member of the House Education Committee; Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, Ph.D., of the VCU School of Education; and Eric Jones, Ph.D., superintendent of Powhatan County Public Schools.
The second panel, “20/20 Vision in Education Policy: Reflecting on Trends of the Past 20 Years and Looking Ahead to the Next 20,” featured Steve Staples, Ph.D., former state superintendent of public instruction; Richard Vacca, Ph.D., professor emeritus, VCU School of Education; Marcus Newsome, Ph.D., superintendent of Petersburg City Public Schools; and Mark Emblidge, Ph.D., of the Center for Public Policy.
The importance of school safety, the evolution of school reform and accountability, ever-changing technology, parental engagement, and school structure were among the issues explored.
Read coverage in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.