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Newton school board discusses ALICE

The Newton Community School District Board of Education met to discuss the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate training program better known as ALICE at Monday night’s meeting at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.

“We talked to some folks who are trainers in our county, and have been for several years, who have been right under our nose, and we didn’t know it,” McDermott said. “We feel like that (this) has some real potential for us. At least two other schools in the county are going down this road.”

Through his research, McDermott found the ALICE program had both positive and negative reviews because of the “counter” part of the program.

“The C stands for counter,” McDermott said. “That is a little controversial, because there are some schools that are concerned that we are training staff or students to target an active shooter. That is not the first priority, the second or the third; however, if you do come in contact with that person, then we feel that folks need to have some sort of a plan.”

McDermott said the ALICE trainers are local individuals, which will help provide a more realistic plan if an incident occurred.

“This isn’t somebody coming in from another state to do this training,” McDermott said. “These are local people that understand the potential for certain incidents.”

The program will be designed differently for various age groups.

“This (program) will be different for a kindergartener than it will be for a fourth-grader, and it will be different for a ninth-grader,” McDermott said. “There are parts of that training, that have classes, that suggest to exit buildings and get away if they can.”

McDermott would also like to focus on staff training. He wants to have a staff that are knowledgeable on what to do if a situation would occur.

Emergency Planning Meeting

The Emergency Planning Meeting is meant for Newton schools to collaborate with the Newton Police and Fire departments regarding emergency plans. McDermott had met with officials before and was pleased with the results.

“To my recollection, that’s the first time in several years where we had reps from all those places in the same room at the same time, “ McDermott said. “So we were really pleased with that. We are developing plans to review all of our emergency plans and also to reach an agreement on some templates to use in the future so that they will be simplified for these folks when they respond, and to go countywide with that.”

“I think we are on to something here,” McDermott said. “When I mean emergency plans, I mean traditional ones — fire, tornadoes and those sorts of things. (It will also include) intruders, active shooters (and uninvited) guests.”

In the event of an emergency, the superintendent is investigating better ways to reunite students with their families.

He also will be meeting with representatives from other school districts March 6 to collaborate with them on ideas regarding emergency planning.


Twitter account

McDermott hopes to have his official Twitter account set up by the end of the week. He addressed the board and told them based off other discussions that he had with other superintendents, he found that Twitter was the best form of social media to communicate.

“I know that other social media had not worked as well,” McDermott said. “This form (Twitter) has seen more success than let’s say Facebook — just because of how postings go with that whole thing. It’s new to me, and I am going to give it a try. We are constantly looking for new ways to communicate.”

The board also heard from various teachers regarding the Woodrow Wilson School Improvement Report. The report is targeted to help educators better understand where their student’s academic level lie.

The highlights of the report were:

PBIS — Positive Behavioral Instructional Support is a program where teachers help students understand basic ethics. This can allow students to properly develop, and older students participate in teaching the younger students what they learned through the program.

Students are also rewarded for things like proper behavior and attendance.

Co-Teaching — One teacher observes and assist while the other carries out the lesson plan. The goal of the program is to a help students academically develop.

Transforming Reading — The library received an update by color coding books with the appropriate reading level by grade. The goal is to allow students to better develop their reading skills and allow students to develop a stronger independent readership skill.

The report also showed that the school was working hard to improve the students reading comprehension.

The board also received the school’s audit report, passed an application for cooperative sponsorship with Pella Christian High School for boys swimming and approved bills.

Staff writer Matthew Shepard may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at

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