Dr. Gary Pack believes there are two important lessons all school administrators should know about school safety:
- You are never as prepared as you think you are, but a safety and security plan that is practiced and part of everything we do in our schools tends to make the critical incidents which do occur more manageable.
- Solid communication networks are very much necessary for successfully managing a crisis.
Veteran Educator Experienced in Crisis Response
Dr. Pack has served in education 39 years as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and superintendent (for twenty of the years) in four states: Kentucky, Tennessee, Colorado, and Ohio. He is currently superintendent of the Princeton City School District in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he has led the district for the past two years.
While serving as superintendent of the Blount County Schools in Maryville, Tennessee, Dr. Pack experienced a crisis situation in which a student held an elementary school principal hostage for three hours with a .357-caliber gun pointed in his face.
Dr. Pack was a high school principal in Kentucky when a student stabbed another student ten times while in the school hallway in follow-up to a fight the previous evening.
And in while superintendent in Colorado, Dr. Pack experienced a situation where an escaped convict overpowered a state trouper and killed him alongside the interstate. “School was in session and trying to evacuate in a blizzard without knowing where the convict was located was very trying,” Dr. Pack shared.
Safety and Security Assessment a Top Priority
Dr. Pack believes it is very important to quickly evaluate school safety as soon as possible once he takes leadership over a school district.
“When I enter a district as superintendent for the first time, a top priority is to audit all safety and security measures and accepted practices. I bring in a team to provide recommendations to the school board and district to tighten up these practices,” Dr. Pack said.
Upon taking leadership of the Princeton City Schools two years ago, Dr. Pack had a full plate of priorities for strengthening the district. His progress has focused on improving academic achievement, making new leadership appointments, enhancing community input and involvement, and introducing a new bond/levy issue to build a very much needed new high school and middle school.
Dr. Pack made sure school safety is kept on the front burner, as well. While simultaneously managing all of the aforementioned challenges, he pushed for a comprehensive school safety assessment to review school safety and security policies, security measures at all facilities, and emergency preparedness guidelines and practices for the district.
While conducting the contracted assessment for the district, our team quickly found Dr. Pack to be genuine and serious about school safety. He “walks the walk,” and does not just, “talk the talk.” School safety is a key, integral part of his leadership.
Advice to School Administrators
“The advice I would give to other school administrators is to regard safety and security as a top priority, because when issues come and they surely will in time, the parents and public expect best practices and protocols must be in place. They do not like to hear, ‘Well we messed up, but we plan to get better’, especially if a student or staff person is injured or killed in the incident,” Dr. Pack explained.
For his commitment to school safety, I am pleased to recognize Dr. Gary Pack as a “School Safety Leader”!
“School Safety Leaders” are individuals on the “front lines” of education who have demonstrated proactive leadership in addressing school safety, security, and/or crisis preparedness.