Oneonta Schools re-evaluating calling system

Oneonta School Supt. Scott Coefield wasn’t pleased when a call he thought he sent to 2700 of Oneonta student’s parents and guardians actually only went out to 12 people. Now, Coefield says he and the Oneonta City School Board will be re-evaluating their calling system after the malfunction occurred during a recent weather event.

When a student is enrolled in Oneonta City Schools, the phone number provided by the guardian is put into a calling system, giving the school the ability to make a mass call in the case of such events as school closings or delays. If a number needs to be changed or a parent isn’t receiving these calls, they contact their school office and are added into the system.

As of now, Oneonta uses the company SchoolCast for $3,000 per year, but with the recent failure of the system, which the company blamed on server problems, Coefield says this issue will be an immediate point of discussion for him and the board. SchoolCast’s contract ends in December 2013.

Blount County Schools utilize another company, OneCallNow, and Blount County Schools federal program director Craig Sosebee says they have had no issues with the company. During the last weather event, 34,610 calls were made informing Blount County School’s parents and guardians about school delays. The company charges a yearly cost of $1.57 per student.

Coefield says the calling system is categorized in the safety section of the Oneonta School’s “Plan of Excellence.”

“We are closer to completing every part of our safety category in the ‘Plan of Excellence’ than in any other category,” he said. “I feel good about our safety, but since Sandy Hook we are spending a total of $30,000 to $40,000 in upgrades.”

These improvements include new locks, more cameras, better communication, and improving and possibly eliminating electronic dead spots so all administrative staff, school resource officer Keith Roddam, and maintenance can be in contact at all times through their Southern Link phones.

Oneonta City Schools has already implemented controlled access to its campus. All doors are locked and all visitors must speak with the office through an intercom system before entering the premises.

Coefield says only three points from the safety plan are currently in need of work – a traffic safety plan, adequate exterior lighting, and access to a social worker.

The traffic plan calls for improved traffic control and flow, and new lighting is partly involved in that plan as well. However, no concrete plans are in place for the social worker because no funding is available.

According to Coefield, a social worker would be a huge step in improvement for school safety at Oneonta Schools. This employee would have specific training dealing with violence among students and would be more prepared for certain situations than would a school counselor, but with limited funding this is in the preliminary stages of discussion.

No matter what kind of funding is available, Coefield says, anyone can be a tremendous help just by being open to informing the school about what’s going on in the community.

“The community can assist in such things as school security especially with today’s social networks, like Facebook,” Coefield said. “Any time they hear something that concerns them, they need to let us know or tell the police. We’d appreciate them helping us out.”