Stow -- After its first meeting, Stow Mayor Sara Drew remains confident her mayoral task force examining safety in the schools and other public buildings will have a proposal on a revamped approach to security ready by the end of March.
The group, which features various members of both Stow and Munroe Falls and is led by Drew, met Jan. 24 with an audience of roughly a dozen citizens.
The task force will meet again Feb. 7 at 5 p.m. in City Council Chambers.
"[Security] is a local problem that needs a local solution," Drew stressed at the beginning of the meeting.
She noted that the first meeting was intended to take a "broad-based" approach to safety and not intended to identify specific solutions just yet. She said she's satisfied with how the first meeting panned out.
The informal meeting began with a few minutes of public comment. A few citizens shared their concerns for safety primarily in the schools, while others offered their suggestions for how the schools and/or police should respond in the event of a dangerous threat.
Task force member David Licate, an associate professor in the University of Akron's Department of Public Service Technology, emphasized the group should also focus on prevention and protection solutions and not just response options.
"It's important we harden the targets as much as possible," said Stow Police Chief Louis Dirker, adding that the largest violators of building security in most places are often the staff working there.
Drew referenced the importance of school resource officers -- Stow-Munroe Falls High School and Kimpton Middle School each have SROs -- which she said serve a "hybrid" role by providing security while also being in a unique position to identify possible psychological issues in students.
School surveillance, approaches to how building visitors are handled, various emergency response and prevention training along with the financial viability of any potential options were other topics discussed.
The group agreed on the need to solicit input from the community regardless of what security plan is explored.
The task force ultimately resolved to divide into five sub groups, each of which will examine a topic and gather information to share at the next meeting in February.
Those groups include a survey team, a threat-assessment team, a cooperation/collaboration team, a security-measures team and a finance team.
Stow Law Director Brian Reali, Stow At-Large Councilman Brian D'Antonio and Drew comprise the survey team, which will explore ways to solicit community input.
Licate and Board of Education President Karen Wright comprise the assessment team, which will evaluate building security risks that need addressed.
Dirker, Munroe Falls Police Chief Rick Meyer, Munroe Falls Councilman Steve Stahl and SMFHS Principal Chris DiMauro comprise the collaboration group that will examine the overall shared security approach between the schools, cities and police.
Meyer, Dirker and Licate comprise the security measures team that will explore specific security options that could be implemented.
And Drew, Munroe Falls Mayor Frank Larson and Stow Finance Director John Baranek comprise the finance team that will evaluate the financial viability and funding options.
Dr. Russ Jones, superintendent of Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools, was unable to attend the first meeting, Drew noted.
The group equally stressed the importance of the survey mechanism and the need for community support in whatever security options are considered.
"The bottom line here is what do the citizens want?" asked Dirker hypothetically.
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