GCS Superintendent Announces Expansion of School Safety Office
Nov. 15, 2022 -- Continuing her focus on school safety, today Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley announced the expansion of the district’s School Safety Office, led by Mike Richey. Richey was promoted to assistant superintendent for school safety at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday and will report directly to the superintendent.
“The safety of our students and staff is a top priority for me. When kids are safe and when they feel safe, they perform better,” said Oakley. “Earlier this year, we launched various projects to strengthen our school safety infrastructure and increase mental health services for students and staff. The expansion of the school safety office adds one more layer of support. For too long, our school safety office has operated with limited staff. We can — and should — do more to keep our schools safe, so our children can focus on learning.”
Studies show that students perform better when they feel safe and seen in school. GCS’s School Safety Office is integral to accelerating learning and providing every student with an opportunity to learn. The district’s focus on school safety aligns with best practices and incorporates curriculum.
Richey’s appointment comes at a time when school and community violence is a top priority for district leaders, educators, parents and others. District leadership presented safety data to the Board of Education on Tuesday, revealing an increase in school violence referrals so far this year as compared to the last pre-pandemic year, 2019-20. Schools are reporting more assaults, fighting, affray and aggressive behavior, as well as an increase in the number of out-of-school suspensions. Guilford County Schools’ data is consistent with an increase in violent offenses in the county, state and nation.
“Our schools are a reflection of our community, and our community is seeing greater numbers of homicides, aggravated assaults and firearms possessions,” Richey said. “It will take all of us working together to reverse this trend, both in our schools and in the community itself.”
Richey has served as executive director of emergency management since July 2021. The retired deputy chief of the Greensboro Police Department brings 27 years of law enforcement experience to the district. During his time in law enforcement, Richey has held the positions of commander, captain, lieutenant, sergeant and corporal. He holds a bachelor of administrative science degree in justice and policy studies from Guilford College.
In addition to Richey’s promotion, Oakley also announced she is adding four additional school safety specialist positions who will be responsible for implementing the district’s safety strategies, emergency management, and developing school safety plans in collaboration with school leadership. The expanded school safety office will include Richey, who will serve as assistant superintendent, a director and five school safety specialists. The school safety specialists are in addition to the school resource officer positions managed by local law enforcement agencies.
As part of her Better Together community conversations, Oakley is hosting a school safety summit on Thursday, Nov. 17, with more than 100 students from across the district to gather input on school safety initiatives. Oakley will also meet with her teacher and principal advisory councils this week to discuss various topics, including school safety.
Tonight’s announcements followed additional school safety strategies deployed earlier this year, including the installation of security screeners, upkeep of school bus cameras, upkeep of cameras in school buildings, safe entry points, a clear bag policy at large gatherings and additional mental health support for students and staff.