NORMAN — Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb hosted the first meeting of the Governor’s Commission on School Security on Tuesday afternoon, and Norman members Darry Stacy, a county commissioner, and Jerry McConnell, facilities director for the Moore Norman Technology Center, left feeling confident in its swift productivity.
“The meeting went very well,” Stacy said. “This first meeting was very much about laying the groundwork, setting precedents and understanding where we are currently in Oklahoma with school security.”
McConnell said the tone of the two-hour meeting was very focused, and he felt a great sense of purpose in the committee’s temporary nature.
“This is not going to be a perpetual committee. Our deadline is March 2, and the meetings go straight through without breaks. This is all business,” McConnell said.
Immediately notable features for Stacy and McConnell were the diversity of the 22-member commission, the constructive interaction and community information-seeking members were charged with and Lamb’s emphasis on leaving the gun issue to the federal government.
The committee was formed following the December massacre of elementary students and teachers in Connecticut.
“Lt. Gov. Lamb made it very clear that guns are a federal issue and we will not be worrying about that, which didn’t surprise me,” Stacy said. “We already have people with firearms in schools, and those are police officers and armed security, and they’re quite well-trained. The question for this commission is whether we want to expand SRO programs we already have.”
McConnell said the informational meeting was a wealth of insight to share with the community, particularly regarding mental health.
“I’m very glad to see mental health be such a big part of this,” McConnell said. “I think mental health is key, and in the meeting, I learned about free mental health resources schools can tap, which I’d never heard of.”
As of Tuesday, the committee did not declare a set agenda or specific goal, saving the formation of objectives for the next meeting, when each committee member can return with input from their community and local educators.
“Each of us were charged with reaching out to community members and schools and getting a feel for where they are and what they need,” Stacy said. “The safety committee here in Norman has put together a list of initiatives that are ongoing which I’ll bring to the next meeting, and I’d like to reach out to all schools in Cleveland County. There are a lot of different people whose input I’m interested in.”
McConnell said he appreciated the open-ended nature of the commission’s current goals, saying it allows for stakeholders to be heard and help form the commission’s direction.
“It’s cool that there isn’t a set agenda. They’re going to let this work through brainstorming and listening to constituents and the experts on the committee,” McConnell said.
For Stacy, a former police officer, the convergence of so many experts for this purpose is, in and of itself, very significant.
“I can tell you that what I see as most productive is the forming of partnerships,” Stacy said. “There’s a lot of expertise in this committee, and creating those partnerships between the different entities of education, law enforcement, mental health and community will be crucial. I met an architect just today who may help with security in school design on bond issues.”