Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Former detective heads safety program

Manning tasked with keeping things safe and secure at schools

Express Staff Writer

Former Ketchum detective Scott Manning (right), the Blaine County School Districtís new safety director, talks to Hailey police officer Manny Ornales, the resource officer at Wood River High School. Manning was hired last summer following school board approval of Strategic Plan Goal number 8, which concerns safety and security at district buildings and authorized the hiring of a full-time director. Photo by Willy Cook

Former Ketchum police detective Scott Manning spent his first opening school day in 14 years as something other than a cop. Instead, Manning is now the Blaine County School District's new director of safety.

Manning was on the job Monday meeting with area police officers, observing school procedures on the opening day and continuing to plan for safety and security at the district's facilities.

Manning said his job involves planning and implementing safety procedures for incidents such as threats of violence, avalanches, hazardous materials spills and "fire, famine, locusts and whatever."

"We want to provide for the safety of all the kids, not just for the privileged few, but for all of them," Manning said Tuesday.

The former detective acknowledges the job is daunting, but he has a proven track record in developing school safety programs.

Manning's appointment to the job was approved by the district board of trustees in July, following approval in June of Strategic Goal No. 8, which concerns safety and security and authorized the creation of a full-time program director. Previously, the task of safety and security was assigned to Katie Palmer, the district's director of human resources.

"They wanted someone in here with law enforcement experience and training," Manning said.

The school district is familiar with Manning's work. Two years ago, he and former Ketchum Police Chief Cory Lyman began meeting with district personnel to discuss police and school district procedures for emergencies. The initial meetings led to development of a School Safety Group, comprised of school district personnel and Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey and Blaine County police officers. Manning was appointed to head the group.

Manning said the group was tasked with developing plans for each school, including Wood River High School, where a note found in a bathroom last April threatened a shooting at the school.

Manning said the plan for the high school wasn't finished at that time, but enough of it was in place that police and school officials were able to quickly mobilize to investigate and provide school security. The note eventually turned out to be a hoax, written by a disgruntled student, but Manning said the event helped to demonstrate the effectiveness of a close working relationship between police and school officials.

"In some cases, you have heads butting together, but we didn't have any problems at all," Manning said.

Manning describes the plans he's developing as "outlines to what the school district and law enforcement are going to do in any given emergency."

"It eliminates the guesswork," he said.

Manning brings 14 years of police experience to the job. He was a detective in Ketchum for four years after moving to the Wood River Valley from police jobs in Buena Park and La Palma, Calif. Manning said he served as a school resource officer while in Buena Park and learned to enjoy working with schools.

Manning said part of his task in Blaine County will be educating students about safety and security. For example, he said studies show that in school shootings involving student shooters, 80 percent of the time other students had heard about the threats but failed to say anything to authorities.

"We need students to know that they can report those things and something will be done about it," he said.

Terry Smith:

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