By Shannon Rigsby
The Mustang Board of Education on Monday approved the hiring of Jennifer Newell to fill the new position of director of school safety and security.
Newell, a retired officer for the Norman Police Department, served for nearly five years as the program manager for the Oklahoma School Security Institute through the federal Office of Homeland Security.
Interim Superintendent Charles Bradley said he is thrilled with the hiring.
“Many members of leadership with Mustang Schools have had the privilege of working with Jennifer,” he said.
“She has been a voice of expertise for our district for several years,” Bradley said. “Her background and connections are going to take Mustang to the next level in providing safe, secure environments for our students.”
Newell has been a trainer statewide for developing emergency operations plans for K-12 schools, managing risk at athletics and after school activities, crisis team training with the Oklahoma State Department of Education, school response to an armed assailant, bus operator safety and more.
She’s conducted 52 risk and vulnerability assessments at public and private schools as well as technology centers. Her training has also included how to prevent crime through environmental design.
For Newell, this position is an opportunity to turn theory into reality.
“I am excited about this opportunity to take what we have been recommending at the state level and implement it at the local level – to start a program and build it into something that will benefit students,” she said.
Newell’s first course of action in her new role will be to get to know all 15 of Mustang’s school sites, meet the people and study threats and hazards.
“Obviously I’ll be working with school resource officers from both the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office and Mustang Police Department to continue to build relationships with those law enforcement agencies,” she said.
In the long term, Newell believes there are opportunities for individual districts to learn from each other. She hopes to start a consortium for school safety and security officers to discuss issues they’ve faced and share solutions.
“We are trying to reinvent the wheel every time,” she said. “We shouldn’t be doing that.”
At the June board meeting, the board approved the request of former Board President Chad Fulton to create the position.
The board also approved increasing the number of sheriff’s office school resource officers on the north side of the district from two to three and to maintain two resource officers from the Mustang Police Department on the south side of the district.
The board also voted to look at third-party agencies to increase the security presence across the district.
While the district has had conversations with a third-party company, Bradley wants Newell to be highly involved in the selection process.
“I believe with Jennifer on board, working with our principals, teachers, staff and community, Mustang is going to be transformed into the flagship for what it means to have a secure, yet welcoming campus,” Bradley said.
Citizen Calls For Arming Staff
At Monday’s Mustang Board of Education meeting, citizen asked the board – as he has previously – to allow school staff to carry concealed handguns.
The board did not respond to the comments.
David Gallion said that his proposal would help defend students and teachers from an active shooter.
He noted that this December marks the sixth year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting that killed 20 children and six teachers.
Since the Sandy Hook shooting, schools have increased security measures, but more than 400 people have been shot in 200 schools, resulting in more 140 fatalities, he said.
“Before government placed itself between citizens and our possession of firearms, there was no such thing as a school shooting epidemic in the United States,” he said.
“The real epidemic is our national sickness of familial degradation that has produced generations of mentally and emotionally imbalanced, often narcotic-induced, young people who express their outrage with deadly armed assaults on defenseless children and educators in gun-free schools.”
Although schools can’t fully repair the social problems, school districts can provide improved security by arming qualified staff member, he said.
“We are gambling with the lives of our children by hesitating to supplement our existing armed resources as there are too many defenseless people spread over too many schools, separated by too many miles, for a small number of resource officers and security guards to protect during a deadly force incident.”