As the executive director for the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s Office of School Safety and Security, Jon Parker says that “teaching is an integral part of my core being, and it is ultimately the guiding principle behind what I do.” Before taking the lead at the OSSS, Parker was an educator for 18 years. He’s also worked in administration, helping to open a rural charter school in eastern Oklahoma, along with working for over four years with the State Department of Education, first as the director of Troops to Teachers and now in his current position. Parker also served ten years in the Oklahoma Army National Guard, working as a training and safety NCO (non-commissioned officer) at Camp Gruber, which he says “fostered that love for teaching and learning, and also helped shape who I am today.” We caught up with Parker and got his thoughts on … 

… the mission of the OSSS.

My intentions for the Office of School Safety and Security were personal and intentional. Our schools need timely training and resources to ensure the physical, emotional, social, natural and learned environment is secure and safe – for adults as well as students. Our office provides resources and technical assistance in the development and maintenance of high-quality emergency operation plans. Planning is key to preparedness; preparedness builds confidence; and that confidence translates to a psychological sense of safety. Without that, learning (and teaching) cannot take place.

… the horizon.

2021 goal:  The development of a new training opportunity for Oklahoma school staff: “Communication strategies for preventing and responding to moments of crisis.” It is designed to offer tools of empowerment and strengthen relationship building techniques for teachers and staff.  

The safest place for our kiddos is in school, to include those that need additional resources or struggle with discipline issues. We must serve and protect all children. Education on behavioral threat assessment, and alternatives to zero tolerance discipline policies, are musts for the future of school safety and security.

… his passion for school safety.

There were several incidents that come to mind that became a catalyst for wanting to identify best practices. It was very important to our office that the professional learning opportunities and tools offered to our schools were developed through an educator’s lens. My team has over 109 years combined experience in education, and that is crucial as systems, guidance and best practices are implemented for our emerging school leaders, as well as those veterans. Team work makes the dream work, and I am extremely proud to work with such committed and knowledgeable professionals.  I appreciate practical solutions for our educational community members, and we hope to present safety tools and concepts that build confidence and ultimately, create the safest community possible for our students.

… career highlights.

My proudest moments have been those times when previous students have reminded me that I made an impactful and positive difference in their lives.

… his legacy.

We are currently credentialing those in the school system as ‘School Safety and Security Professionals’ – my office designed and supports this program through the state Department of Education. It is the lasting legacy for school safety as we create, train and support a network of professionals across the state. They will make the lasting and most powerful impact on their communities and students for years to come.

… parting words.

Humans make the biggest difference. In the end, no matter the amount of money spent or how cool the latest gadget may be, a positive adult relationship in a student’s life is where we always find the most significant impact in education and school safety. Teaching is still the most noble profession, and students are worth the investment for securing our state’s future. 

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