Looking to provide qualified applicants to JoCo agencies, SMSD working on signature program for law enforcement, fire, EMT

Shawnee Mission Director of Safety and Security John Douglass said he expects the new program to be ready for the 2017-2018 school year.
Shawnee Mission Director of Safety and Security John Douglass said he expects the new program to be ready by 2017.

When John Douglass was chief of Johnson County’s biggest police department, his administration faced a common challenge: Finding the highly qualified applicants Overland Park wanted as part of its sworn force.

“Even here we have problems with recruiting good individuals,” Douglass said. “We always had openings in Overland Park because of its size. But our recruiting standards were very high. We only hired 5 percent of applicants.”

Now, as the Shawnee Mission School District’s Director of Safety and Security, Douglass is hoping he can both help Johnson County agencies find qualified law enforcement, fire and EMT professionals and also provide a career path for some of the district’s students. Douglass on Monday announced the development of a new signature program for the district that will provide specialized training for students who think they may be interested in a career in the area.

The program will have two tracks: one for law enforcement and one for fire/EMT. District officials will focus on getting the law enforcement track ready for implementation first, with hopes that it could be ready for an early roll-out in the first semester of the 2016-2017 school year. Douglass hopes to have the law enforcement program fully implemented by February 2017.

The announcement appeared to indicate a shift toward more focus on signature programs as the district prepares to move its administrative offices and specialized education programs to the new Center for Academic Achievement, which is expected to be completed around the start of 2017. The new law enforcement, fire/EMT program would join the district’s current signature programs – including animation, biotechnology, culinary arts, medical health sciences, and legal studies — at the facility.

“We are trying to be on the leading edge with the way education is changing,” Douglass said of the program. “We want to make sure students are not just prepared for next grade, but are more to be oriented to the options they have in the future, where the career and diploma are co-partners.”

Shawnee Mission this week also announced the tentative creation of a partnership with Kansas State University that would lead to the development of signature programs in agriculture and/or biosciences.