Winnetka, News

Gates, vestibules, security director among New Trier’s recent security upgrades but not the ‘most important,’ officials say

School’s first priority is relationship building

Like most schools, New Trier High School takes a layered approach to campus safety.

But according to school leaders one safety measure stands above the others.

“Our approach focuses on relationships with students,” Superintendent Dr. Paul Sally told School Board members during their meeting on April 17. “Knowing students and making them feel like they belong is the most important factor in terms of preventing harm to self or others.”

Sally introduced a campus safety presentation delivered by Denise Dubravic, principal of the school’s Winnetka campus.

Dubravic went into more detail on New Trier’s abilities to connect with students and three other safety layers: community partners, physical safety measures and procedures, and emergency procedures and readiness.

During the meeting, school officials said the district’s recent security improvements and regular public updates are informed by surging school shootings nationwide — a firearm was discharged on school property 110 times so far in 2023 and 303 in 2022 in the United States — as well as recent and related local incidents (gun brought to Highland Park High School on April 4, replica guns cause Sears School lockdown on April 5).

Over the last five years, New Trier has installed secure entryway vestibules and new fencing on campus grounds.

Dubravic explained that at both school campuses students must scan in with a student ID, plus the campuses have limited entry points that are staffed by security personnel, electronic monitoring at other doors, and video surveillance of hallways and entryways. Other district safety measures include an anonymous tipline, TrevsTips; a threat assessment team; and an armed school resource officer at each campus.

Other school security measures cannot be disclosed in order to protect their integrity, official said.

The district also recently created a new position, director of campus safety, for which it hired Raimond Pavely, a longtime Wilmette police officer and school resources officer.

Pavely, who began in February, was introduced during the meeting and spoke to the board of education.

“I’ve been trying to assess what’s in place and make changes when necessary,” he said. “I can tell you that the district has done a lot of great things prior to my arrival, so we’re just trying to build on that. My main concern is my security staff, to just make sure that we’re getting them the proper training.”

While explaining his role, Pavely provided his endorsement of the district’s focus on relationships, saying connecting with students, staff and parents is vital to his job.

Dubravic shared his sentiment, specifically in relation to students.

“We want our students to feel that they belong in our school and that they are able to have an impact on their own lives and find value in the relationships and activities that fill their day,” she said.

Also important for campus security, New Trier partners and communicates with numerous outside organizations, from local police departments and neighboring high schools to community organizations such as Josselyn, Family Action Network and New Trier Parents Association.

The district meets with local law enforcement at least yearly to review procedures and partners with them for annual drills for emergency situations, such as an active shooter or evacuation.

Sally said the district has also increased its public communication with parents and students, including recently sending out a message promoting safe gun storage.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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