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Calendar >  Vista Unified’s Jeff Geyer An Innovator For School Safety

Vista Unified’s Jeff Geyer An Innovator For School Safety

By   /  January 7, 2017  /  No Comments

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Ray Huard …. When San Diego County school official wanted to overhaul the way schools respond to threats on and off campus, Jeff Geyer of the Vista Unified School District was among those they turned to for help.

Jeff Geyer

Geyer, the district’s safety and environmental manager, had long felt that schools needed options beyond going automatically to a hard lockdown, especially if the threat involved something like a police chase near a school that didn’t directly involve the campus.

In a hard lockdown, an alarm is sounded and teachers, students and administrators run to the nearest room, close the door, turn off the lights, hide, and wait for an all-clear to be sounded.

They can’t leave the room, even to use a restroom.

That makes sense if there’s someone on school grounds with a gun or other weapon.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s an off-campus threat,” Geyer said. “There’s a police chase near a school or police activity near a school.”

In those cases, Geyer and others felt that something less dramatic would be sufficient.

Working with law enforcement and school officials from throughout the county, Geyer helped develop what they’ve dubbed a “secure campus” option.

“Representatives from 46 school districts and every law enforcement agency in the county were involved in developing the program,” Geyer said.

The idea is to keep off the school grounds anyone who could pose a threat, and to keep students in a safe environment.

After determining that no one on campus poses an immediate threat, school officials would lock the gates so no one could enter school grounds from the outside.

“The goal of this is to keep whatever’s going on out there, out there,” Geyer said.

Rather than run to any room when an alarm is sounded, students and teachers would go to an assigned classroom, lock the doors, but not hide. Teachers could go on with their lessons, and students could go to the restroom with an adult escort.

“We want to avoid all the traumatic stuff,” Geyer said.

If there is a threat on campus, such as someone with a gun, then schools go to hard lockdown.

The new protocols call for more training on what to do, even in a lockdown.

For instance, if there’s a clear escape route, take it, Geyer said.

“If you know where a shooter is, and you can get off campus safely, run,” Geyer said.

In Vista Unified, Geyer is working with Michelle Walsh, coordinator of student services, and school police resource officers to form two to three three-person teams to train administrators, principals and teachers on using the new protocols.

While improving schools’ response to threats is critical, Geyer emphasized that the odds that any school will face an active threat are remote.

The chance of someone being the victim of a school shooting are more than one in three million, Geyer said.

“We have to be prepared,” Geyer said, a motto he’s lived by since becoming a Boy Scout in St. Peter’s Troop 731 in Fallbrook.

To this day, Geyer never leaves home without packing an emergency kit in his truck, including food and blankets.

“My scoutmaster and several other adult leaders were Marines, so we did a lot of self-sufficient/survival type camping in remote four-wheel drive-only accessible areas,” Geyer said. “I learned to love off-roading and camping, with a heavy respect for military, law enforcement and hunting/defense weapons.”

Geyer also was an active CB radio fan.

“Magic Dragon was my handle,” Geyer said.

Working with other CB’ers, Geyer was part of a radio communication system during law enforcement search and rescue missions.

“Back in the ‘70’s, nobody had cell phones,” Geyer said. “We would four-wheel drive to the top of a hill and be relaying messages.”

These days, Geyer said, “I’ve really found my passion in this emergency preparedness world.”

Colleagues said Geyer is a joy to work with.

“I just like being around him because he has a great attitude, a great personality,” said Tim Ware, school intervention manager at Oceanside Unified School District.

Ware and Geyer have similar responsibilities in their school districts, and the two often share ideas and tips.

“He has one of those attitudes that’s infectious, to strive for excellence,” Ware said.

Shari Fernandez, Vista Unified’s director of elementary curriculum and instruction, said Geyer’s concern for school safety goes from pushing for security cameras and improved fencing at schools to walking the paths children follow to school to look for any obstacles they might face.

“I know of very few districts that are putting the effort that Jeff is putting in in Vista schools,” Fernandez said.

Vista Unified Superintendent Devin Vodicka said that Geyer “is a tremendous contributor to the safety of all students and staff.”

“He has established a leadership role throughout the county as a result of his commitment to his own professional learning and for his thoughtful and compassionate approach,” Vodicka said.

A 1976 graduate of Fallbrook High School, Geyer worked for his brother as an electrician while in school and continued in the trade after graduating, owning his own business for a time and working for several others companies, including Souther/Birtcher Development, where he became project manager/superintendent.

He went back into business for himself when the financial crisis hit and the bottom fell out of the construction industry.

“I was really struggling for a couple of years,” Geyer said.

He got a job with Vista Unified in 1991 as an electrician, and slowly worked his way up to his current position in 2012. His wife, Tanya, is the health/attendance technician at Temple Heights Elementary School.

Two years ago, Geyer went back to school. He’ll receive a bachelor’s of science degree in homeland security and emergency management this month from National University, graduating magna cum laude with a grade point average of more than 3.7.

“As I immersed myself in my new passion – school emergency preparedness and safety – I found that I have something to offer both law enforcement and school folks,” Geyer said. “However, I know how educators think. Without a ‘sheepskin’ on the wall, one is not a validated expert.”

Geyer said that he’d been thinking about going back to school anyway. Then, when National University offered a degree program that involved emergency preparedness, he jumped at the chance.

“I decided I needed to have the requisite education and diploma,” Geyer said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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