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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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What do the citizens want? That is a silly question... we want our children safe and a hardened location does not provide this safety from a determined assailant. Any person trained in protection knows this. There are 9 schools at 182 days each at 9 hours per day. Pay an officer or equivalent $20.00 an hour to be present. Total cost is $294,840 with each officer making $32,760 for this time. This amount makes up less than one percent of the districts annual budget at 0.5501%. Secondly, this amount equals $55.16 per student. I would like the school board and our mayor who is prone to setting up blue ribbon commissions to simply tell us parents why they cannot afford $55.16 per student to have a police officer in each of our schools. Tell us parents why they could not find $300,000 out of a $54M budget to protect our children. So what do I want... I want you to provide armed security in each school each day and if you do not provide this, I want an explanation of why you could not find $55.16 per student per year to do this. Talk is cheap, action speaks, commissions and meetings are not the action that impresses me nor does it protect my children. Find the $300,000 in the budget to make this happen.