March 27, 2014
Education & safety go hand in hand 
 
Dear HPISD Parents and Staff, 
 
For those of you whom I have met, thank you for such a warm welcome into the HPISD family. I am so excited about working with all of you to ensure the safety and security of HPISD students, faculty, staff and visitors.

Since coming on board at the beginning of March, I have toured each campus and met with each principal. I have been fascinated by what I have seen in each school. The caring and attention that is applied to every detail of the education provided to HPISD students is beyond words. Even more impressive are the students and their eagerness to learn.

As I have had opportunity to study, review and observe, one thing is clear: safety and security are priority one. HPISD has done an outstanding job in preparing for emergency situations that might occur. The attitude of all involved toward providing a safe and secure educational environment has been pleasantly overwhelming. That attitude is our greatest asset.

In my years of experience as chief of police for the Ector County ISD and as a deputy commander for the City of Odessa, I have found that preparation is the key. As the world around us changes, we must constantly work to update our practices. In the coming months, I will work with students, faculty and staff to closely examine our procedures. As we make enhancements, we will inform everyone affected, providing information and/or training. I want to thank you all in advance for your willingness to partner with HPISD to provide a safe learning environment. 
 
I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you of some of the measures we have in place to provide a safe and secure learning environment: 
  • Texting: In addition to sending emails, HPISD has set up an emergency communication system that allows us to send text messages to parents, students and staff in the case of an emergency.  You can update your cell phone number at any time.  For more information on updating a parent or student phone, please click HERE.  Staff can find more information HERE.  
  • Email and web postings: HPISD will continue to use email and web announcements for emergency communication, in addition to texting.
  • Campus lockdowns, evacuations and sheltering in place: Faculty and students have been trained to use these emergency procedures, and each campus regularly conducts drills. In case an emergency necessitates a lockdown or sheltering in place, we ask that parents not risk their own safety by coming to their child's school. We will use the messaging system to notify you once the lockdown has been lifted and the students may be picked up from school. 
  • Weather readiness: HPISD continues to utilize early-alert software to allow time to prepare for dangerous weather. Parents and employees will receive updates as conditions evolve and will be reminded of emergency procedures.
  • Training: HPISD staff receives safety training on an ongoing basis, and the district continues to partner with area public safety departments for additional support. In coming months, additional safety and security training will be provided for faculty and staff that will complement skills already in place. 
  • Partnership with Emergency Response Agencies: HPISD enjoys close working relationships with University Park, Highland Park and SMU safety officials to prepare and provide for any situation that might occur. A communication network specifically designed for emergency situations is in place and tested regularly.  
  • Reunification: Part of the emergency planning process is preparation for reunification of students with parents in the event of an emergency situation occurring on an HPISD campus. We are currently working on procedures to make that process more efficient and effective. Our goal is to reunite students with parents as quickly as possible, and we must do so in the safest manner for all involved. In the event that reunification is necessary, each parent/guardian who arrives to pick up a student will be given a reunification card to complete. Please be familiar with this card and the required information. Also be prepared to show valid photo identification in the event of an emergency that requires reunification. 
  • Campus volunteers: One of the greatest strengths of HPISD is the number of volunteers on each campus at any given time. These volunteers provide essential eyes and ears that stay alert to situations that might compromise safety and security. The district runs background checks on our volunteers, and it is very important that they wear their badges while on campus. Our staff have been trained to ask anyone without a visible badge to produce it or to return to the office to obtain one.  
  • Visitor check-in: All visitors are required to check in at the main office of the campus. This allows us to create an awareness for administrators of all who may be on a campus at any given time. 
As we move forward, we ask for your assistance and cooperation. Please keep in mind that all safety procedures in place are for the benefit of our children's safety and education. Other areas where parents can be of assistance are: 
  • Please continue to speak with your students and reinforce the importance of safety rules and procedures. Keeping doors closed, reporting unsafe situations, and following directions of adults are some of the most important topics.
  • Please report any unsafe situation to a campus administrator, teacher or other school official. 
Providing for the safety and security of our schools is an ever-changing and increasingly challenging endeavor. We must all work together to protect our most precious resource. Thank you once again for your interest and willingness to play a part.

If you have questions or feedback, I would welcome your input. Please contact me at rowdenm@hpisd.org. 

Copyright (c) 2014 Highland Park Independent School District, all rights reserved.