Calcasieu Parish Superintendent Wayne Savoy. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 10:59 AM
The Calcasieu Parish school system will no longer hire people until after officials receive the results of applicants’ criminal background checks, Superintendent Wayne Savoy told the School Board on Tuesday.
The policy change comes two weeks after police arrested a school bus driver on drunken-driving charges just minutes after he’d dropped children off at school. The driver, a substitute, had been certified and allowed to drive before the results of his background screening had been received.
“We are going to increase the background check turnaround time to a couple of days. It’s going to be a little more expensive for applicants, but we’re not going to hire anyone until the background check comes back,” Savoy said.
“We’ve also made some adjustments in the personnel department in relation to applications. We’re going to stay on top of this and be very, very aggressive.”
Applicants will have to go through the Sheriff’s Office to complete the background checks, and Savoy said they should expect the results back in two to three days. The policy will apply to all employees, not just bus drivers.
“I think it’s necessary for us to look at all of these things because that creates a huge problem when we have people that are not totally cleared that are driving the buses,” said the board’s vice president, Annette Ballard. “I’m very pleased with what the superintendent is doing. It’s all about safety for our students and our teachers.”
District 12 board member Joe Andrepont suggested talking to state lawmakers about increasing penalties for bus drivers found to be drinking and driving. “There needs to be a harsh penalty for that because we’re putting innocent children on buses and depending on these people to do a job,” he said.
Savoy also told board members that he wants a more consistent crisis management plan and tighter school security.
He said he’s spoken with Sheriff Tony Mancuso and Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon about reviewing each school’s plans, especially guidelines on dealing with intruders.
Savoy said officials are going through the schools’ quarterly reports to identify the crisis management teams. One area of concern, he said, is access into schools, and he wants every person who enters to be stopped for identification, no matter who they are.
“When I go to some of the schools I notice that they don’t have those security measures that some of those other schools have,” said District 7 board member Mack Dellafosse. “You can just walk right in.”
Savoy said he will present crisis management plans to area law enforcement agencies, letting them know how administrators will handle emergencies until authorities arrive.
He said they are looking at creating more barriers — seen and unseen — in the schools to deter intruders. Measures would include buzzer systems for schools, keypads instead of locks for gyms, and more routine security checks.
Principals have been asked to put into writing whether they have discussed their crisis management plans with their faculties. Savoy said the main concern is that administrators and authorities are clear about schools’ security procedures and what to do in emergencies.
“I’m planning on meeting with law enforcement officers through all the municipalities, but still it’s going to be dependent upon the individuals in schools to sustain the kind of effort that we are going to put forth in Calcasieu Parish,” Savoy said.
“I think it’s important that the municipalities, the city of Lake Charles, the Sheriff’s Department understand and know what we are doing in our crisis management plans to have a good school environment. But we also need their input ... communication is the key in these kinds of situations.”