Commonwealth Journal

May 10, 2013

Butcher is honored for school safety plan

Newtown tragedy spurs action here

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

After the tragic events late last year in Newtown, Conn., Pulaski County Schools Superin-tendent Steve Butcher felt compelled to take action.
Action to make his schools safer — and the students in his care safer.
This week, Butcher was recog-nized for those actions with a prestigious honor. Butcher was named “Administrator of the Year” by the Kentucky Association of School Resource Officers (KYASRO). 
The award will be presented to him during the Safe Schools and Communities Conference in Louis-ville, June 10-12.
“It’s a great honor to be recognized for doing something good for our kids,” said Butcher. “I was selected over some other very worthy people. I’ve heard it was a pretty good field of nominees.”
The KYASRO awards recognize school personnel in the Bluegrass state that have helped promote the benefits of school resource officers — that is, law enforcement agents who maintain a constant, vigilant presence in school facilities — and contribute to overall school safety.
Butcher has made sure that all schools in the county system have school resource officers from local law enforcement on hand, and go through all safety procedures yearly with principals and staff. 
Deputies are in and out of all eight elementary schools at random times throughout the day. The two middle and two high schools have had police presence since 2005 through the Safety Resource Officer program, according to Pulaski.net, the school district’s website.
Pulaski County Schools went further, however, making sure the deputies from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department had a home away from headquarters. Butcher told the Commonwealth Journal that the officers adopted elementary schools in outlying areas of the county, and were given a place to do their reports in some of the buildings.
The schools also agreed to feed the officers lunch at no cost.
“We wanted to give them as much of a presence as they could get,” he said. “It’s a small price to pay to have safety officers and deputies in your school.”
Butcher also said that his district partnered with Kentucky State Police to give them the same opportunity.
“They’ve been real receptive at the London post,” said Butcher.
Butcher took other steps in the wake of December’s headline-making shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. Concerned that any school in America could fall victim to something similar — including those here in Pulaski — Butcher increased safety at local schools with the help of technological advancements and structural and procedural changes.
David Morris of Modern Systems donated panic buttons and security systems for each school. Safety doors were added to the schools that didn’t have them. Butcher immediately put forward $50,000 for security improvements at Oak Hill, Burnside and Southern Elementary Schools, with a second set of doors providing a more secure entrance, so that anyone entering will have to encounter school personnel first, and another $100,000 over the summer for security upgrades to Northern Middle School.
“I’m sure that played into (the award),” said Butcher. “They looked at the body of work that had been done.”
Butcher said he was nominated for the award by Pulaski County Safe Schools Coordinator Wanda Johnson. Butcher received the “Administrator of the Year” award as a superintendent; he shares it with Kent Jackson Parrent, assistant principal at Christian County High School.
“When all that stuff came down from Sandy Hook, we tried to put our heads together and figure out what we could do to get as many layers as protections for our kids as we possibly could,” said Butcher. “We’ve been real cognizant of our kids’ safety.”