A recent security analysis performed in Woodland School District 50 may have resulted in high marks for the district's five schools, but that doesn't mean changes won't be made to enhance the security even further.
"Yes, we are very pleased with the affirmation," said Superintendent Joy Swoboda. She said it's good to know, from an outside perspective, that the security plan that's already in place is effective and "doing the job as we intended it to."
But, as Swoboda noted, "we are a district that's focused on continuous improvement" and changes could be made.
"It was fascinating," Swoboda said of the security analysis, performed by national security expert Ken Trump. "He is a brilliant man and extremely knowledgeable in this area. It really was beneficial for us. We received, verbally, over a dozen ideas to consider. We will be evaluating that and looking to make changes."
Trump evaluated the schools in both District 50 and Gurnee Elementary District 56.
Trump said he was "exceptionally impressed with both."
"It's refreshing for us," said Trump.
Even post-Sandy Hook, Trump said, he has visited schools across the nation that still have open doors around their buildings. Trump said some schools he's seen haven't performed basic security drills, there's absent supervision and security plans haven't been updated.
That was not the case in Districts 50 and 56, he said.
'Ahead of their Peers'
"Both of these districts are well ahead of their peers across the country," said Trump. "But they're also wise enough to know you can never be too good at it. They understand this is an ongoing process."
School security, Trump said, starts with the people—everyone from the district leaders to the teachers and custodians.
"The first thing we look at is, 'Do they get it?'" said Trump. "Is (school security) part of the forefront of their minds.
"The locks and the two-way radios, those will be issues you can go back and revisit over time, or there will be new needs or upgrades," said Trump. "The real issue is with the people. Some of the best security in a school is unseen. It's invisible."
District 50, for example, which includes parts of Grayslake and Libertyville, has performed staff trainings, has controlled-access in its buildings, uses two-way radios for enhanced communications, and holds unannounced drills.
An unannounced drill was held during Trump's visit at Woodland Elementary East and West, he said. The drill took place during lunch.
"There's nothing like looking at the face of a principal, especially during lunch, and saying, 'You're going into lockdown,'" said Trump.
Everyone performed well, Trump said. For example, Trump said he saw a custodian locate students who had gone to the bathroom and usher them to a secure location.
"We were extremely impressed with that," said Trump. "We saw adults step up."
Partnerships are Crucial
Trump was also impressed with the partnerships between Districts 50 and 56, and between those districts and the Gurnee Police Department.
"School safety is really about partnerships and relationships," said Trump.
Swoboda said she talks to District 56 Superintendent John Hutton every week. The two district leaders believe it's important to communicate for the benefit of having a common message and common procedures.
Swoboda is also proud of her district's relationship with the first responders—the Gurnee Police and Fire Departments.