Tuesday, April 26, 2016

District a finalist for safety award from American Association of Community Colleges

From left: Grossmont College students Elijah Descoteaux,
 Michael Garate, Chavez Bridgewater, Sheriff’s Deputy Jerry Jimenez,  
 Campus and Parking Services Specialist Tiffany Hungerford, 
and  student Carol Bianchi.
The Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District has been selected as one of four national finalists for an Award of Excellence from the American Association of Community Colleges for its comprehensive system to keep its two colleges safe and prepared for emergencies.

The East County district was a finalist for the award in the category of Community College Safety Planning and Leadership at the 2016 AACC Awards of Excellence ceremony this month recognizing exceptional work among the more than 1,100 two-year colleges in the nation.

The district was recognized for its wide-ranging efforts to promote public safety and emergency preparedness at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges, which includes a partnership with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department; a Campus and Parking Services Department that handles parking and customer service issues; and a continual review of emergency preparedness procedures through district and college committees.

The AACC, the primary advocacy organization at the national level for community colleges, created the Awards of Excellence program to highlight the best initiatives from among the more than 1,100 community colleges across the nation. Applications were reviewed and selected by a committee of the AACC Board of Directors.

“We are proud of our strong and comprehensive safety and emergency preparedness efforts,” Chancellor Cindy L. Miles said. “The safety and security of our students, employees and visitors is always a critical priority.”

The district began partnering with the county Sheriff’s Department in 2013 to provide law enforcement for Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges, which serves about 28,000 students. It was the first time the sheriff’s department had provided the service for a higher education institution. A sheriff’s sergeant and deputies are stationed at the college district, and the agreement also offers the district ready access to services provided by the sheriff’s departments, such as special units investigating crimes like theft, drugs sales, domestic violence and hate crimes. 

In a letter of support to the AACC, Sheriff William Gore cited examples of his deputies and department resources benefitting the campus communities, including the swift arrest of a suspect for assaulting a female student in the Grossmont College parking structure, and the sheriff’s bomb arson team removing a suspicious package from Grossmont College last month. In another instance, sheriff’s crime analysts were called in who were able to solve a string of campus thefts.

Although employees with the district’s Campus and Parking Services (CAPS) are not law enforcement personnel, they collaborate with sheriff’s deputies and provide additional eyes and ears around the clock at the two college campuses. In 2015, CAPS specialists conducted 1,500 hours of security checks and provided 450 safety escorts.

Both colleges have Emergency Operations Committees that meet monthly to review emergency preparedness and safety procedures and develop drills to better prepare for a crisis. A Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Council oversees the work of the committees and coordinates emergency preparedness and workplace safety issues districtwide. The council includes representatives from both colleges and the district office, the sheriff’s department, CAPS, and students.

The district conducts regular drills of emergency scenarios so that staff will be prepared in the event of a disaster and to further improve the emergency preparedness system. Tests are also conducted of all emergency communication methods, which include text messages, voicemail, a toll-free emergency information phone number, email, website notices, office and classroom phones, public address system, and social media.

“This comprehensive strategic approach now weaves safety and emergency preparedness into all aspects of district planning, budgeting, and educational systems, creating an enhanced environment of both trust and security,” Miles said.

For more information about the college district, go to www.gcccd.edu .

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