Synesi report sparks re-creation of local schools' safety committee


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Iowa City schools will soon see a new safety committee.

During Tuesday's School Board meeting, the members finalized a Safety Advisory Committee whose responsibilities will include reviewing district emergency plans, student security efforts, and working with agencies such as Johnson County Public Health and Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

Diane Duncan-Goldsmith, who served on the district's past safety committee, said the new committee could deal with safety issues outlined in the district's 2011 Synesi infrastructure audit. None of the School Board members who have served for more than a year knew when the previous safety committee was disbanded.

The audit noted district physical-plant members often lacked management experience for engineering and construction projects and needed "an inclusive, functioning, and aggressive safety committee."

"[The past safety committee] was very effective," Duncan-Goldsmith said. "It's a good way to start the dialogue and look at the issues identified and see what issues in the [Synesi] report are or could be safety related."

District officials said they previously operated several informal safety committees for a number of years but decided to formally create one again following the Synesi audit.

David McKenzie, the assistant director of the district's physical plant and current safety committee member, said he is interested to see what goals the new committee members have.

"I think safety committees are important to show that both management and labor are interested in the safety of the employees," he said. "It depends how the committee is organized and what its mission is and how it's run, [but] I am looking forward to what we can do." 

The committee will consist of various faculty and staff who were nominated to work with Superintendent Steve Murley on developing safety policies, procedures, and manuals. Confirmed committee members include Duncan-Goldsmith, Director of Health and Student Services Susie Poulton, and Special Education Director Rozy Warden. 

A full list of committee members is expected to be completed by the end of the week. 

Other Johnson County school districts, including the Solon School District and Clear Creek/Amana School District, either have a committee or are looking to create a safety advisory committee this year.

Lori Robertson, the director of finance and board secretary for Clear Creek/Amana, said the district is in the process of forming a safety committee. 

"It's something [the district] has wanted to do for a long time, and it is in the very beginning stages," she said. 

Clear Creek/Amana has compiled information from other districts that have committees, she said.

Iowa City School Board member Sarah Swisher said the new committee would coincide with the district's management goals.

"Safety is the top priority of the district," she said.

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