Clovis works to improve school security

By Darrell Todd Maurina

When a tall man in a business suit recently walked into Clovis’ Parkview Elementary school, signed the visitor form and left the desk without picking up an identification badge, one of the school’s newest teachers sprang into action.
“Who’s that man? He didn’t take his pass!” the teacher said to Linda D’Amour, principal at Parkview.
“She’s a little bitty tiny thing, but she knew he didn’t follow procedures, and she reacted and was going to take him down,” D’Amour said.
As with other schools in the Clovis district, Parkview Elementary has a strict policy against people walking through the hallways without proper identification. And it didn’t make any difference that the man who forgot to pick up his badge was Clovis schools Superintendent Neil Nuttall.
The teacher was embarrassed when she learned the man she was about to confront was the top official of the school district, but D’Amour told the teacher she had done the right thing.
“I’ve even run down the vending machine man because he didn’t sign in,” D’Amour said. “He said, ‘I have my uniform on,’ but I told him, ‘You have access to my children and you aren’t getting in until I know who you are.’”
Those are examples of steps Clovis is taking to make sure students are safe while on school grounds, officials said. Beginning with passage of a 1998 bond issue, the district began a 10-year program to redesign buildings and install new safety equipment.
Parkview has been a recent beneficiary of the new equipment: security cameras and burglar alarms installed this summer have already foiled a robbery attempt.
“As soon as they entered the building the alarms went off, it scared them away, but we got it all on camera and were able to prosecute,” D’Amour said. “They tried to plead not guilty and asked for an attorney, but from what I understand, when the attorney saw the pictures, they were told to just sign the confession.”
Other improvements include instructing staff to be aware of suspicious activity.
“It’s a different world we live in now, and safety is our number one thing for our children,” D’Amour said. “I frequently get a call on my radio that someone is circling the building slowly or something else that causes us to call the police. If it wasn’t for very alert staff that really care about the safety of the staff, we wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Not everyone appreciates being challenged by school authorities and told not to enter the building, but Nuttall said he was glad the increased security led to him being caught on the day he tried to enter a school building without a pass.
“We’ve recently redesigned Parkview’s office to give them greater vantage points of view and greater access to people coming in,” Nuttall said. “(The teacher) came around the counter to get between me and the kids, and that was the right thing for her to do.”
While some of the new security measures made their debut at Parkview, Nuttall said they will eventually be seen in all of the district’s schools.
“We really feel we’ve always taken kids safety seriously, but we are now taking advantage of the technology to help us do it better,” Nuttall said.