Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

January 14, 2013

School leaders upgrade safety plans

TAHLEQUAH — Leaders from all Cherokee County school districts met with law enforcement officials Friday morning to kick-start plans for increasing campus safety.

Administrators said safety is always on their minds, but recent school shootings are causing them to take another in-depth look at how secure their sites are, and what might need to change to make sites safer.

“It’s real important that, as a county, we get together to discuss these issues,” said Dr. John Cox, superintendent at Peggs. “We met for a safety review to see where everybody’s at on their current issues and policies, and how we can work together to have a consistent process if such an occurrence happens.”

Superintendents are working with local first responders to plan school-site assessments in the coming weeks. Leaders want parents to be aware of those plans, and to know they may see an influx of police and other emergency responders at school sites.

“What we’re really looking at is having a team of law enforcement officials come out to our schools and assess our strengths, and also show us what might need some attention,” said Cox. “We want to do what we can to slow down and deter these [school violence] occurrences.”

Grand View Superintendent Ed Kennedy said county school administrators want to work together to make campuses more secure.

“We want to have a standardized policy in place, like if we were a big district such as Union or Broken Arrow, and then each site will have its specific plans and identified personnel, and know where we’d go if something was to happen,” said Kennedy. “We want to have the same basic look and feel at each site. If we’ve got the same model in place at all schools, it’ll make it a streamline process.”

Marilyn Dewoody, superintendent of Hulbert Public Schools, said funding is always a major concern for district leaders, and may occasionally prevent districts from taking certain safety precautions that might otherwise be available. But schools can still review their policies and try to tackle any issues that might need attention, she said.

“Each school is different,” said Dewoody. “We wanted to talk about having a more concise countywide plan. County officials and law enforcement officers will be going to each site and doing a walk-through, then making recommendations. We just want to have as many eyes as we can look at our facilities.”

Those fresh eyes can make a big difference, according to Tenkiller Schools Superintendent Randy Rountree.

“Anytime there’s a tragedy across the country, it makes us do some self-assessment, and talk about what we’re doing and what we need to do,” said Rountree. “We self-evaluate all the time, but we want to step that up and have others come in and evaluate us. Fresh eyes can really point out those potential issues.”

Cherokee County Sheriff’s Deputy Roger Fine, who has been the county schools’ resource officer more than six years, appreciates the cooperation among county school leaders and law enforcement officials.

“We want to increase the safety of our schools and make them a more secure learning environment, and we also want parents to know we are stepping out to make schools safer,” said Fine. “We want to develop a plan of action that we can all have and put all of our schools on the same page.”

Fine is responsible for policing all Cherokee County schools – excluding Keys, where Deputy Bob Lewandowski is on-site, and Tahlequah, which has several of its own school resource officers.

Resource officers from Keys and Tahlequah are also working with Fine to conduct the school assessments.

If Fine is unable to visit all county schools in a single day, he tries to make his way to each school site at least one or two times a week, where he can get to know staff and students and open up the lines of communication.

That, he said, is the key to preventing school violence.

“I think everything needs to be reported and investigated,” said Fine. “We need to take all of this seriously.”

School superintendents agree.

“We tell our kids all the time if you hear something, let us know,” said Rountree. “Most of the time it might just be a kid talking or saying things they have no business saying, but we take them all seriously. While we always hope none of that talk is true – and most of the time it’s not – every little bit of information you get like that, you have to look into it to make sure it’s nothing more.”

Woodall Schools Superintendent Linda Clinkenbeard said keeping communication open among students, staff and parents is key and can help prevent problems. She said adults must be willing to investigate any rumors, and find ways to turn those incidents into a teachable moment.

“It is important if a student goes home and is sharing things with an adult, and maybe it doesn’t sound right, or it doesn’t feel right, we encourage that adult to contact one of us at the school,” said Clinkenbeard. “It may turn out to be absolutely nothing but a wild rumor, but we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to that.”

Dewoody hopes students and parents recognize the need to report rumors or other concerns as quickly as possible.

“If students hear anything, you always want them to feel comfortable telling a teacher, a principal, an adult or parent if there’s anything suspicious, or anyone talking about any sort of plan,” said Dewoody.

Kennedy believes school safety is a three-pronged approach involving the school, parents, and the students.

“They have to know information can travel any direction,” said Kennedy. “We are going to respond when a kid says something to us, when a parent says something to us. We want to have the open-door policy at our school. We realize America’s innocence has gone away, and it’s going to possibly inconvenience some people the way schools must respond, but we’re just going to have to do these things that keep our schools safe. We have to take it seriously.”

County superintendents and local law enforcement officials urge community members to report any rumors or suspicious activity to school administrators and police as soon as possible.


To see the complete version of this article, subscribe to the Daily Press e-edition by following the link below.

Click here to get the entire Tahlequah Daily Press delivered every day to your home or office.

Click here to get a free trial or to subscribe to the Tahlequah Daily Press electronic edition. It's the ENTIRE newspaper (without the paper) for your computer, iPad or e-reader.

Text Only
Local News
  • ths-jazz-2.jpg THS jazz band gets up early to hone performance skills

    It means getting up an hour earlier, and it doesn’t count as a class, but the jazz band at Tahlequah High School enjoys the dedication of a group of enthusiastic students.
    The THS Jazz Band practices every day at 7 a.m., an hour before the start of classes. It numbers 17, and is led by Director Orien Landis.
    “They have to do this before school and they get no class credit, but we have a full band,” Landis said. “They are really excited about this.”

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Easter-basket-kid.jpg Easter traditions date back centuries

    Some Christians may lament a partial shift of focus, but a Christian holy day - perhaps the most holy of all – is this Sunday, and it will be marked with celebrations all around the world.
    The Christian holiday of Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. For centuries, the observant have fasted, reflected or done penance in the weeks leading to the holiday. But today, many also associate the holiday with the Easter bunny, candy, and kites. In 2013, Americans spent $2.1 billion on Easter candy.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Some oppose minimum wage hike; others decry strong-arming by state

    President Barack Obama and the U.S. Senate recently announced a push to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, to $10.10. On the heels of the announcement, an initiative petition was introduced in Oklahoma City to raise the minimum wage to the suggested $10.10. If it gained 80,000 signatures, it would be put to a vote of the people.
    This legislative session, a bill passed prohibiting municipalities from setting a minimum was or vacation and sick-day requirements. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill into law earlier this week.

    April 18, 2014

  • Phone scam takes $500 from couple

    Authorities are warning Cherokee County residents to watch for a costly phone scam that recently targeted a local couple and ended in their loss of $500.
    According to sheriff’s deputies, a couple contacted authorities after losing $500 to the scam. The couple received a phone call from a man who identified himself only as “Mr. Green.” He told the couple they had won $1.5 million through Publisher’s Clearing House, but to collect the money, the couple would have to purchase a $500 money card to cover various fees.

    April 18, 2014

  • Missing local teen found dead

    The body of a missing 17-year-old boy was found in southern Cherokee County on Thursday, sheriff’s investigators said.
    Brikk Pritchett was reported missing earlier this month after disappearing on March 30, a day before his 17th birthday.

    April 18, 2014

  • ts honor flight 1.tif Flight of honor

    World War II veteran Charles Harra flew missions for the Army Air Corps, and if you ask him which flight was his most memorable, he’ll say it was his 35th mission.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Man charged after leading authorities on wild chase

    Prosecutors have formally charged a man who allegedly led authorities on a wild high-speed pursuit across Cherokee County in late March.

    April 17, 2014

  • Sex offender bonds out after failing to register

    A Cherokee County man is out on bond after being arrested last week for failing to register as a sex offender.

    April 17, 2014

  • jn radiator shop.jpg ‘Greenbelt’ progressing

    Crews this week began to demolish an abandoned radiator shop at the corner of South Street and Guinn Avenue.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts slut walk.tif SlutWalk shines spotlight on crime

    “Two, four, six, eight, stop the violence, stop the rape; slut, slut, ho, ho, yes means yes and no means no!”
    This was the battle cry across the campus of Northeastern State University, as the student branch of the American Association of University Women held its third annual SlutWalk Wednesday.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo


What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest