By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer
(Aug. 30, 2018) Worcester County Public Schools Superintendent Louis H. Taylor was presented with the School Safety Superintendent of the Year Award from the Maryland Center for School Safety during its annual summer conference on Aug. 13 in Annapolis.
“I was very surprised,” Taylor said. “I was very humbled and very honored to be recognized for that. I firmly believe that it’s a collaboration between my executive level team, our school-based leaders and our teachers that made this possible.
“I also believe it’s a collaboration between our Board of Education and County Commissioners who fund our school system that they allow us to do things to make sure that we are safe,” he continued.
The award, presented by Maryland Center for School Safety Executive Director Ed Clarke, recognized Taylor’s outstanding leadership and his commitment to creating and enhancing a safe and secure learning environment for students, staff and parents in Worcester County Public Schools.
“I feel very strongly as a superintendent that all 6,700 of our kids have every right to go home to their families every night and every single one of our employees have a right to go home to their families every night,” Taylor said. “With that philosophy in the back of my mind every day, it is paramount that we take a look at all the precautions we can possibly look at and make sure [safety precautions] are [put] in place within our abilities to [do so].”
Key safety features the superintendent installed into Worcester County schools include a deputy in each school and regularly updating and evaluating safety plans.
Check-in and check-out systems and shields donated by Hardwire of Pocomoke have been incorporated into the buildings, and every school is locked and secured.
“I firmly believe teachers can’t teach at a high level [and] kids can’t learn at a high level if we are not making every effort to make sure those environments for learning are safe and secure,” Taylor said. “Keep in mind there’s no way to totally prepare for everything that could happen. We do have an obligation to look at what we can control and manage that at a high level to make sure we are safe and secure when our kids and families are in our buildings each and every day.”
In recent years, school safety has become one of the top issues in the nation, and was one of the most talked about and funded legislative topics in the 2018 Maryland Legislative session.
“It’s not only in schools, it’s across the state. I believe as a school leader we’ve got to make sure we’re doing all we can,” Taylor said.
A key component to school safety, according to Taylor, involves putting more focus on mental health, which has been another topic of debate in Maryland legislation.
“I want to make sure that we’re taking a look at the agencies like the Worcester County Health Department and others who can provides services for school safety [to] identify problems before they exist,” he said. “They’re a huge component of this team to address mental health issues within our community and school community to alleviate some of the problems that could exist down the road.
“It all boils down to relationship building,” Taylor continued. “Safety starts with relationship building. We’ve all got to be on the same page. We all have to be in a collaborative and supportive mode when we’re working together.”
Worcester County schools are set to open on Sept. 4.