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Elizabeth School District safety director honored | #schoolsaftey

Chancy J. Gatlin-Anderson
Special to Colorado Community Media

Mike Newton, the Elizabeth School District’s director of safety and security, was named Security Director of the Year on July 12 at the Campus Safety Conference in Henderson, Nevada.


The award is given by the Campus Safety organization, the industry leader in coverage and education for facility protection professionals at schools, universities, and healthcare organizations. It publishes Campus Safety magazine in print and maintains a robust online presence. It also conducts conferences for administrators and public-safety officials, technology directors, risk managers and security and law enforcement executives from all over the world who are looking for solutions to their campus safety, security, emergency management and technology challenges.


“For a small rural school district to be represented and recognized alongside much larger metro school districts is an amazing feeling. This achievement is for all of Elizabeth and Elizabeth School District,” said Newton in an email correspondence from July 14. “We have accomplished so much over the last two years and achieved numerous milestones that set the bar for school safety standards. Each safety and security director that was nominated has done amazing things for their districts, so whoever was chosen to win was deserving. I know how much hard work, dedication and determination has been devoted to our students in Elizabeth School District.”


The Elizabeth School District issued a press release on July 13 about Newton’s achievement, citing his background and praising him for his role in upgrading the district’s security, one factor that led him to being named K-12 Security Director of the Year.


According to the press release, under Newton’s leadership, Elizabeth School District has received roughly $730,000 in school safety grants, resulting in improved radio communication systems, security cameras and other school-hardening upgrades. He is in Elizabeth schools daily to help ensure safety and continually works with local law enforcement and emergency response agencies plan and practice for emergency situations.


With support from the Elizabeth School District’s board and administration, Newton continues to expand the scope of security efforts in schools: In a first for the district, the 2023-24 school year will see full-time school resource officers from the Elizabeth Police Department assigned to Elizabeth High School and Elizabeth Middle School, and new, armed district security staff members will also be assigned to assist at all Elizabeth schools as well as extracurricular activities.


Newton shared his thoughts in a Q&A with the Elbert County News on July 14:


What does this honor mean for you? Is it something you’ve been working toward for a while?

This is a tremendous honor, but it was not achieved on my own. This was a collective team effort and it ultimately is a direct reflection of the amazing students, staff, and community of the Elizabeth School District. Each day, our team comes to work and school prepared to protect and safeguard our students. This was not something I was actively working towards specifically winning this award, but I am always actively striving to be the best for our kids.


What are your 2023-2024 goals for the Elizabeth School District? Any upcoming projects?

School safety is a perpetual process that must be continuously evaluated and improved. We have so much ahead of us in the Elizabeth School District and we are just getting started. Just a few of the new safety and security measures for the 2023/2024 school year include the Raptor Alert and the Raptor Emergency Management suite, two full-time school resource officers (SROs) from the Elizabeth Police Department assigned to Elizabeth High School and Elizabeth Middle School, new armed districtwide security staff to assist at all Elizabeth schools and extracurricular activities, the SchoolSAFE radio interoperability program linked to first responder radio systems, and additional professional development focused on threat assessments and pre-attack indicators. We have also applied for numerous school safety grants focused on facility and site hardening. I am hoping to have an answer on these grants within the next few months.


Now that you’ve been named K-12 Security Director of the Year, do you have any sort of obligations to the organization? Speaking engagements? Any duties?

There is still a lot more to come with this! I will have the opportunity to participate in and lead various webinars focused on school safety. Campus Safety magazine will publish an editorial focused on Elizabeth Schools.


Why is school security so important to you?

School safety has been something I have been passionate about for a long time. I have always had the desire to serve others, which led me to enlist in the Air Force, specifically Security Forces. While deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Arapahoe High School shooting happened. Having that be so close to home, it was then I wanted to bring this desire and passion of mine back home to protect our most valuable assets: our children. I always felt safe growing up going to school, and I strive each day to make sure each student gets the “home away from home” feeling too while at school. School is the safest place our students can be each day, and it is my job to reassure our parents and community of that. Plus, one of the best parts of my job is interacting with and spending time with students at each of our schools.


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