Tightening education and school safety budgets demand that school safety consultants and trainers solve problems, not provide theatrics.
A school dean drove home this point when he said to me in a teleconference last week: “I was impressed with your presentation above all of the other presenters because you are down-to-Earth, had practical advice, and did not have all of the ‘theatrics’ of other presenters.”
This educator, along with his principal, called to discuss engaging our consulting services at his small Midwest school. But before he may ever get any of my advice on school safety, he gave me some good insights into what is important to educators who are considering hiring a school safety consultant: No drama. Practical, real-life problem-solving support.
His comment on no “theatrics” was not the first comment along these lines in recent years. But such comments have intensified as education budgets, and in turn school safety budgets, are increasingly cut in districts across the nation.
“Cry on Command” School Safety Consultants?
Last month, at a national convention of school board members, a school board member from a Midwest state shared with my colleague a story from a recent school safety seminar he attended. He said at first he was impressed with one of the presenters, but as the program went on, the presenter lost credibility in the eyes of this board member when the presenter’s “drama” increased to the level of the presenter crying during the presentation.
A year or so ago, at a different national education conference, a school leader who I met for the first time commented that she had been to a number of school safety training sessions and appreciated the practical, common-sense suggestions I had made to solving some challenges educators face daily on school safety. She went on, unsolicited by me, to share an experience where she had heard another school safety presenter speak at four separate conferences over several years. She, too, was impressed at the first workshop, but in subsequent workshops by this same presenter it dawned on her that the presenter cried at the same point in the presentation — and in fact, cried each time on the very same slide.
In yet another unrelated setting, a different educator summed up his thoughts on a similar presentation he attended: “If this ‘expert’ is so emotionally unstable to cry in every presentation, why on Earth would I hire that person to give me advice on keeping my kids, staff, and parents calm in a school crisis?”
Limited Resources Requires School Safety Consultant Scrutiny
The good news is the number of qualified, experienced, and competent school safety trainers and consultants has grown in the past decade. The bad news is there are some people presenting themselves as “experts” who probably would best serve the education community by choosing another profession.
I’ve written a couple guides to help educators sort through the various types of school safety consultants. My 2007 article in School Planning and Management magazine highlights some questions to ask and points to consider. Our web site also has some tips for selecting school safety consultants.
Educators today have very few dollars and time to waste on school safety consultants who provide a lot of hype, entertainment, and emotional string-pulling. They need school safety specialists who understand school climate, culture, politics, and school-community relations issues from a K-12 administrative perspective.
Most of all, educators need practical, cost-effective, and common-sense school safety advisors who give them real world recommendations, not drama and theatrics.
What qualities do your school leaders look for in their school safety consultants?
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