Re-elected to the Alabama State Board of Education on Tuesday, Tracie West of Auburn is thinking about something else that happened that day.
“Obviously we want to make sure that all school districts have a very robust safety plan so that we do everything that we can to prevent the tragedy that we’ve seen played out at Robb Elementary School in Texas,” West said of the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers.
West said on Friday that the Alabama State Board of Education is revisiting Gov. Kay Ivey’s 2018 SAFE Council Executive Order and considering how to prevent school violence within Alabama.
SAFE Council, which stands for “Securing Alabama’s Facilities of Education,” was created by Ivey after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The executive order states that “providing safe schools for the children of Alabama is a paramount responsibility for the State of Alabama” and that “all school-safety ideas should be considered.”
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West said that school safety is her No. 1 priority. “Children cannot learn if they do not feel safe,” she said, “and parents need to know that we have done everything to prepare for their child to be safe when they’re with us.”
The state board is going through plans to ensure that all school districts are prepared, she said, and that the summer break is the perfect time to do this work.
West said recommendations to be made to local school districts will be “based on mental health building improvements, district safety coordinators and regional safety leads.”
Safety measures that could be taken by schools include hiring a school resource officer, training on the latest active shooting protocol and working with law enforcement, she said.
In recent years, she said, Auburn City Schools have “hardened” their campuses and added lock entry points, cameras and identification badges.
The Alabama State Board of Education also understands that not every school in the state has access to the financial resources to add these extra preventative measures.
“So what we want to do as the State Department of Education is identify and help them with any additional safety planning and resources that they may need to ensure that they are operating as safely as possible,” West said.
Tuesday night, West received about 67% of the vote among the 14 counties in District 2 to defeat challenger Alex Balkcum in the Republican primary. There were no candidates on the Democratic ballot.
A member of the Board of Education of Auburn City Schools for nearly 10 years, including two as president, West said she decided to run for state school board in 2018 because of her experience at the city level.
“I really felt like the state board was out of touch with the day-to-day operations and challenges that we were facing at the local school level,” she said. “So I just did some research and decided that I would run for the position.”
West led a local small business for 27 years after graduating from Auburn University, she said, and is currently a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Preferred Real Estate in Auburn.
“I’m not a politician, and I’m not an educator,” she said. “I’m a business person. So I tend to see education through the lens of business and progress and setting goals and achieving goals.”