Monday, February 3, 2014

The Role of Unions in School Preparedness (Safety, Security, & School Climate)

It does take a school community (a village) to raise, 
educate, nurture, and protect a child. 

     Unions, as a part of that community, are a vital component in that process. The school community encompasses the school administration, faculty, staff support, SRO, students; but also includes parents and guardians; first responders (law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services); neighborhood and local businesses; school district leadership and staff; unions (teachers, custodian, security, food service); city services (emergency management, transportation, health and human services, etc.), and local elected officials. All of these stakeholders (internal and external) are part of the school preparedness network and must work together. 

     If everyone is involved in school preparedness and any adult in a school might be a "first responder" in a school incident; then the unions that represent them must be integrated into the safety, security, and school climate equation. The school custodian at Sandy Hook Elementary School is credited with warning others about the impending threat and saving lives in the process. 

  • The custodian who performs safety checks on machinery and knows the layout of the facility to advise first responders is critical. 
  • The food service worker who hears a discussion or comment that causes them to be concerned for the welfare of a child or a co-worker can prevent a disaster. 
  • The school security or hall monitor who establishes a professional approachable rapport with students and co-workers is invaluable to the prevention and critical response in any school incident. 
  • The teacher who is in the classroom, hallway, and cafeteria with numerous students sometimes before, during, or after school has a powerful role in the safety and security of the school community. 
  • The above representatives and a union building steward should have a representative role in any school preparedness committee that meets regularly in the building and district.

As difficult as it may be to believe in today's hyper-sensitive school preparedness environment, if a school or district doesn't take school preparedness as seriously as it should, then the unions provide a voice to make the school community safer and more secure. 

If there is a concern brought forward by a worker to a union representative it may be the worker's perception or a reality, either way it needs to be addressed for resolution. So that in the area of safety, security, and school climate there is a common understanding of what is taking place. 

The key is professional collaboration vice an adversarial accusatory relationship between the unions and the school administrative leaders. If student learning in a positive school climate within a safe and secure school environment is our collective goal, then it is important to work together.  Both sides should welcome the opportunity to collaborate to improve things for all.  It is not about blaming each other for mistakes or shortcomings, it is about working together to fix them as soon as possible for the safety and security everyone.