Troy schools still discussing armed teachers

By Stacy Walenter

The Troy School Board met on Monday, April 16 at the Troy High School Library. The meeting opened with Superintendent Jacob Francom and Morrison Elementary principal Diane Rewerts handing out several awards to students, volunteers, parents, and teachers for various accomplishments including straight A’s, citizens of the week, and contributions to the After School Program.
Francom reported that findings from an audit on February 28 and March 1 were positive and a voluntary OSHA evaluation found that the schools were “on a great track.” He also said that Gear Up grants have steadily decreased in the last few years from $140,000 to $110,000 to $60,000.
The district has secured a $10,000 grant for playground equipment. The money will go toward equipment suitable for children in Morrison’s preschool. The highly-regarded preschool has performed well and the lack of an appropriate playground environment has been the only thing they have been asked to address.
Kay Randall, Troy schools librarian, presented the “One Community, One Read” event she has organized. At Morrison Elementary’s final FACT night event on April 5, free books were handed out to families. 123 copies were dispersed that night with an additional 28 given away at the Troy Senior Citizen Center the next week.
The goal of “One Community, One Read” is to engage the community in a multigenerational discussion about themes in the book, including bullying and family relationships. A week-long series of events will take place during May.
Music teacher Sheri Hand reported positive results from Troy students’ participation
The board also addressed the district’s student immunization policy. Francom reported that Lincoln County has the highest number of religious exemptions on file in the state. From now on, when parents request an exemption, the school will first refer families to the county nurse.
Lastly, the board discussed an $80,000 quote for epoxy flooring for several areas in both of the school buildings. Floors will be replaced in the high school bathrooms, the kitchens at the elementary and the high school, and the foods room at the high school.
The floors have a 20-year life span. Money for the floors will come from a combination of money from the general fund, adult education income, the interlocal agreement, metal mines money (which has not been touched in nearly seven years and that the board originally earmarked for technology) and some building reserve funds.
The floor was then opened for public comments. A large contingent of parents and residents who are for an armed presence in the schools was present.
Parent Jennifer Meyer presented the results of her Facebook poll, in which she found 92% of respondents to be in favor of a qualified, armed person in the schools. Eight community members and parents spoke to the board on why they wanted an armed presence in the school.
Former Troy Police Chief Mitch Walters said, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Toshia Yeadon reminded the board of the school’s bomb threat and said that there was no organization.
“That was a scary time for a lot of parents,” she said. “I agree that we need something in place. We need to protect each other.”
“We protect our politicians. Why don’t we protect our kids? They’re our most valuable resource, said Liz Carmigiani.
“Montana is second in the nation for teen suicides,” said Allen Carmigiani. “It’s not if it happens, it’s when it happens.”
The following evening, the board held their safety meeting. The safety board introduced their members as Hy Boltz and Jan Fontaine of the school board; Superintendent Francom, Principal Rewerts, and Vice-Principal Christina Schertel from administration; parent and community leaders Josie Hermes and Jennifer Meyer; certified staff Anita Winslow; classified staff Heidi Sedler; Leslie Meyers of Altacare; high school counselor Kelly Palmer; Troy Police Chief Katie Davis; Keith Haggerty from maintenance; county sheriff Roby Bowe; and the Troy Volunteer Fire Department.
They cited the purpose of the district safety and security committee to be the promotion of safety and security in all district facilities and for all staff and students.
The committee reported forthcoming safety upgrades at both school campuses, including new phones , an active threat alarm system, an intercom/paging system throughout schools, regular drills, electronic door access, camera systems integrated throughout buildings, the entire district will be re-keyed, upgraded fire alarm system, upgraded cameras in school buses, sign-in system for school visitors, buzzer system for access at the elementary school, new exterior doors, regular police presence at the schools, and constant reevaluation and education after drills and situations such as the bomb threat.
The safety board is in the process of updating its Emergency Management Guide. Some in attendance asked if the guide would be available to view on the internet. Later in the meeting, Sheriff Roby Bowe cautioned against putting the guide on the internet, saying that attackers sometimes use escape plans as part of their own attacks.
Bowe also said that whether the school decided to arm teachers or not, the Sheriff’s Office would be available to help with training.
The rest of the meeting centered on the discussion of arming teachers. Jennifer Meyer asked if there were any teachers willing to carry. Dr. Francom said yes.
Mark Roesler-Begalke suggested that the board poll its staff to find out whether they were willing to carry a weapon. He said if the entire staff was overwhelming for or against it, it would make the issue easier to discuss.
Board member Hy Boltz said, “Arming a teacher doesn’t have to mean a gun. There are other options that would be defensive and effective.”
Both sides of the argument agreed that everyone was for a school resource officer instead of an armed teacher.
Those in attendance also reviewed the mental health aspect involved in preventing an attack in the first place. Altacare worker Leslie Meyers said that Troy schools already offer recommended mental health services to students.
Meyers and high school counselor Kelly Palmer were put in charge of compiling resources to further help the school deter an incident.
The next regular school board meeting with be Monday, May 14 at 6 p.m. The next safety meeting will be on Wednesday, May 16 at 4 p.m. Both meetings are held in Troy High School library.