Jul 27, 2014

School Security: Westlake Not Complacent

District always looking to improve, director Dave Kocevar says in wake of Sandy Hook shootings.

School Security: Westlake Not Complacent

School security's not what it used to be, said Westlake City Schools business director Dave Kocevar, whose job also involves managing the security for the district's seven schools.

And that was true even before Friday's mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Kocevar, who came to Westlake this past summer after 19 years at Wooster City Schools, said much has changed when it comes to school security since the Columbine shootings of 1999.

Schools take security much more seriously, Kocevar said. Consequences are much more serious for things like threats or bringing a weapon to school, even if nothing happens.

Communication is essential, he added. Not just from schools to students, but from and students to schools. The district has set up an anonymous safety hotline, where parents and students can report threats or potential problems. The number is 440-250-1199.

"The big thing is you can't ever think you've done everything," Kocevar said. "We're regularly reviewing what we do, not only in the district but with Westlake police and fire departments. We have a good partnership with them."

The district's approach, he said, is "very proactive." The safety council, which had already met twice since August, met again on Tuesday.

"We're still processing what happened (in Newtown)," Kocevar said. "There's a lot of information out there, but we're not sure what's confirmed and what's misinformation or rumor. We can't base our decisions on jumping to conclusions."

Schools are much harder to get into. In Kocevar's first days on the job, before he got his official ID, he noticed that he couldn't just go into a school without staff noticing and approaching him to make sure he was on the level. 

Technology has evolved as well. The current schools have as many security cameras as they can, and their use and placement are always being reviewed and tweaked.

Westlake was one of the school districts mentioned in a WEWS Channel 5 report on districts submitting school plans to local police agencies and the Ohio Attorney General's office. The district was named as one of about 20 northeast Ohio districts that have submitted detailed, digitized plans done by Foremost Safety Solutions, a Macedonia-based company.

Kocevar credited his predecessor Dave Puffer, who is now the district's director of construction projects, for getting that done.

"I'm following his example," Kocevar said. "School security's about staying vigilant."

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