|5/25/2018 7:28:00 AM
LUHS school board approves hires, assesses security
The Lakeland Union High School Board met Monday and approved four new hires for the upcoming academic year. Security was also a major topic of discussion following yet another mass shooting in Texas.
Two new faces, two returning
Jake Richards will be offered a position as a business teacher. He currently teaches business and IT at a high school in Illinois. He taught at Hillsborough High School in 2014-15.
Richards earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois and his master's at UW-Whitewater.
Jake Suter has been tapped as the head boys' hockey coach. He played Division 1 hockey for four years at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, where he earned his bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
Since 2016, he has served as the assistant coach and assistant general manager of the Madison Capitols.
Mercedes Mendez, a LUHS graduate, will have the chance to return to her alma mater as school counselor.
She earned her associate's degree at Nicolet College in Rhinelander, her bachelor's degree in psychology from UW-Stevens Point, and is completing her master's in school counseling this month at UW-Stout.
Levi Massey will be offered the position of dean of students. He was the academy facilitator and taught at LUHS in 2012-13.
Since 2004, he has taught in Reedsburg, Stevens Point, Menomonie, Lodi, and Prairie du Sac. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees - both in education - at UW-Stevens Point.
Three of the four position offerings passed the board unanimously, but members Barry Seidel and Emily Hallstrom voted against offering the dean's job to Massey.
They made no mention of being opposed to the candidate or his qualifications, but Seidel said "I'll go back to my original argument that dean of students is a redundant position ... I'll stand with my belief that we're unnecessarily increasing the size of the high school administration."
Safety: ahead of the curve, room to improve
Justin Szews, next year's principal, led a discussion on the school's potential to resist an armed attack.
Szews noted two recent shootings in Florida and Texas, a threat against LUHS, and the availability of state grant money as important reasons to assess security at the school.
LUHS has one of the most advanced electronic admittance and tracking systems in the state.
Most schools in Wisconsin have nothing comparable, according to school resource officer Bill Trojan.
Lakeland is also in a tiny minority of schools that employ part-time hall monitors who rotate shifts to cover the entire school day.
Szews also singled out Trojan as a great asset.
"The data, and it's sick that I can talk about this because there is so much data out there on school shootings, but the data is really stark. Really compelling," Szews said. "Having an armed SRO in the building full time is your number one deterrent - statistically - for incidents involving active shooters in schools nationwide."
Szews does not want success with those programs to foster a sense of complacency. He wants to stay vigilant and continue innovating and improving.
He plans to apply aggressively for grant money which he would use towards improving the school's net of 83 cameras, hiring more hall monitors, and reinforcing windows just for starters.
Education is Szews' forte. For defending lives, he first seeks counsel from professionals in that field.
"Officer Trojan and our local law enforcement agents are the experts and we're following their lead," he said.
Fred Williston may be reached via email at .