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New risk manager's goal is to improve safety in schools

August 28, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Today's his third day as Washington County Public Schools' first risk manager, but E. Paul Rudolph already is thinking about how to improve the school system's safety procedures.

Rudolph, 36, of Winchester, Va., said he plans to spend the next few weeks reviewing general school system safety guidelines set by the state and federal government so that he can prepare a comprehensive safety plan for the school system.

Those state and federal guidelines are bound in a large folder on Rudolph's desk.

He has toured a few county schools in hopes of getting a better grasp of individual school safety plans.

"I'm getting out there. I'm looking around," Rudolph said.

Carol Mowen, the school system's spokeswoman, said different schools will present unique challenges regarding safety for its students and staff. For example, she said, schools near railroad tracks or busy roads will require more specific, individualized plans, an idea with which Rudolph is familiar.

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"I've found that you can still have a unified program with variations for each site and still stay within the same mold," he said.

Rudolph, who also is an adjunct safety instructor at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W.Va., will be expected to manage security within the school system and to evaluate safety programs and policies, said William Blum, the school system's chief operating officer. His work will include reviewing the school system's workers' compensation guidelines, said Blum, who will be Rudolph's supervisor.

Rudolph's salary will be $64,000, Blum said.

Blum said that in the past, different school officials, such as the director of facilities management and the director of human resources, performed the tasks now assigned to the safety specialist. Having someone with safety expertise will help the school system to better address security issues, he said.

The school system is responsible for 20,000 students and 2,500 employees, Blum has said.

Blum said police officers stationed in some county high schools are funded by police department grant money and Rudolph will not be their supervisor.

Rudolph comes to Washington County Public Schools from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where he has been an occupational safety and health specialist in Washington. Previously, he was director of safety and security for Valley Health System in Winchester.

He said when he was at the health-care facility he was responsible for the safety of employees, patients, visitors, children in day care and students there through Shenandoah University.

"I feel that it will be very similar to work I've done in the past," Rudolph said.

Rudolph said he wants to take a proactive approach to unsafe situations to ensure a safe environment.

As the father of three children, all under the age of 6, Rudolph said he understands the range of safety needs from toddlers through adult.

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