We sometimes hear the meaningful phrase “a life well-lived”. This phrase has special meaning to those who dedicate their lives to a higher purpose. Gerald Summers worked his last day as the Director of Safety and Security for the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) in Evansville, Indiana last week. Having worked on two large school safety projects for the district, it is clear to me that Gerald has literally accomplished nothing short of miracles in Evansville.
A veteran law enforcement officer with a fascinating background of real world experience, Gerald has applied what he has learned surviving horrific encounters to preventing and preparing employees for school crisis situations. Gerald has completely revamped access control, security procedures and has developed some of the most comprehensive school crisis plans in his state, complete with custom instructional videos to help students, staff and parents understand how to perform lifesaving action steps in an emergency. He has developed a well–trained crisis team with members at every school and has provided team members with a wide range of high quality training.
Others have repeatedly noted his exceptional work and Gerald was selected as the Campus Safety Magazine School Safety Director of the Year by a screening committee of his colleagues. Gerald’s efforts were also highlighted in a feature article in School Planning and Management Magazine. A Certified School Safety Specialist through the Indiana Department of Education, Gerald also recently presented at the academy with his wife Sue Hartig on one of their areas of expertise – how school officials can more effectively address child custody issues. A successful attorney with solid experience in issues relating to child custody and family law, Sue was kind enough to help me produce a detailed white paper on screening expert witnesses for school safety court cases this year. Gerald also provided us with invaluable feedback in our recently released staff development video, Safe Topics – Planning for Disabilities and Other Special Needs during an Emergency. Gerald has considerable experience in addressing safety, security and emergency preparedness concerns for students and staff with special needs.
After his retirement from the EVSC, Gerald will be working with Sue to deliver quality training and consulting services for schools, nursing homes, and not-for-profits including places of worship. They created quite a buzz when they presented at the academy last month and one attendee told me that it was one of the most informative and thoughtfully presented sessions he has attended. I am glad to see these talented and compassionate experts enter the field of school safety consulting. In a largely unregulated field, there are many folks of widely varying qualifications and it is always great to see people who are highly qualified working as school safety consultants.
But with all these examples of the indications of the golden character of Gerald Summers, perhaps another perspective can be seen by what happened on his last day at the helm. I spoke with Gerald on the phone that day, and he was truly moved and deeply humbled by what happened when he opened his email. Gerald received a massive outpouring of emails from school corporation personnel and people from the many community partner agencies he had collaborated with so closely over the years. More than 400 people emailed to let Gerald know how highly they thought of him, congratulating him, and most of all, letting him know just how much they hated to see him leave. Though this comes as no surprise to me, Gerald was overwhelmed by this outpouring from the people he served so thoughtfully. The way the people you help think of you speaks volumes of who you really are.
Gerald Summers has clearly made an important and positive impact, and has earned an honorable reputation with a career well lived.