School board talks security, cougars

Superintendent Bill Korach said the Lake Oswego School District is continually seeking to improve school security, but sometimes the issue gets a little more attention.

The school board discussed changes to security protocol during its Monday meeting, touching on cougar sightings and an unexpected visit from KATU, a local TV news station.

A reporter produced a story based on a visit to Lake Oswego Junior High during which he did not sign in and filmed students and potential security vulnerabilities. The reporter surprised a school district administrator with the footage during an interview. The online story blurs students' faces.

KATU officials “don’t care about kids’ safety or the lives of kids,” school board Chairman John Wendland said. “They put our kids at risk.”

The KATU story was done in response to community member Marti Long’s email complaint about seeing no security at the junior high school's front entrance and a “lack of signage” for the office.

“Shame on you for failing to protect our children,” Long said in an email to the superintendent and school board.

An email from KATU News Director Tiffani Lupenski to school board members and a district staffer was included in the board packet.

“It is the job of journalists to ask tough questions and showcase public vulnerabilities,” Lupenski wrote.

Korach said earlier this week that the filming and subsequent KATU interview with an administrator “was an unfair setup” that “was not what I would call appreciated.”

The school board agreed the sign-in process, including the type of badge, should be consistent among schools.

Korach said the school district already has protocols established, although recent cougar sightings and a report of gunshots at area schools brought some potential issues to the surface.

Students were locked in, part of the protocol, for both incidents. About 80 parents arrived at Oak Creek Elementary School to get their students when they heard about the gunfire, which is not such a good thing “if a gunman is loose,” said Patrick Tomblin, director of special education/special services at the school district.

During the cougar sighting on Monday in the Westridge Elementary School area, the district told parents not to come to the school, but one parent did, which raised another concern. The protocol is to keep the doors locked, but there needs to be an exception built in in case someone is in danger.

“There’s a cougar outside. He’s outside,” Tomblin said. “We’re in. Do we let him in? There are exceptions you have to make to the rules.”

Local schools have had to lock students in three times this school year, more times than most people can remember. So far, the procedures have held up, Tomblin said.

“The staff did a really good job in the heat of a real event,” he said.

Also at the meeting:

• Board member Linda Brown nominated Patti Zebrowski as the next board chairwoman. Board member Bob Barman said the board should wait until the special election is over before choosing a chairperson. Brown said it is the board’s practice to choose a chairperson in May. The board approved Zebrowski’s nomination by a vote of 4-1 with Barman in opposition.

• The Lake Monsters Robotics, a group of Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high school students and mentors, showed off their robot and showcased its Frisbee-flinging powers. Students asked the board for help, including additional staff support. Chairman John Wendland said the board would help in any way it can.

• The board said it would hold off on making a decision on Emile Bonfiglio’s request for an easement on River Grove Elementary School property for a wastewater line extension. The board is waiting for the real estate study, an evaluation of school buildings, that could influence what schools will close.

• The school board officially declared this Teacher Appreciation Week.

• Two students were granted early graduation requests from Lakeridge High School.

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