SHERBURN - A wide swath of the Martin County West community - parents and grandparents; police; and school, business and city officials - attended the first meeting Tuesday of a group now calling itself "Operation Watchful Eye."
Ike Krogman, vice-president of the organization, said that while the primary focus is on helping the school district buy security cameras, funds raised will be for the school to use at its discretion.
"This is not a one-shot deal," Krogman said. "The sole reason for the organization is to provide funds for the Martin County West school district. Naturally, the Connecticut [school shooting] got me off my butt. Years on the road as a traveling salesman, when I had an appointment, it was tougher to get in to see the person I had an appointment with ... Seeing those type of security measures, I wondered why aren't the schools like this?"
Krogman admitted that given the publicity surrounding the group's ideas, he has received both positive and negative feedback.
"The negative feedback I heard was, 'Oh, cameras aren't going to stop a shooter,'" he said. "But my idea is, if some child at school falls and suffers a concussion, by the time the responders get there, with the cameras they can see how the child hit, and send the video to the E.R. before the ambulance even gets there. This is why I want to work with the police and sheriff's departments ... We can analyze what cars are coming by. Things like theft, vandalism, bullying, it'd be advantageous to the school, police and the county as well."
Martin County West Superintendent Allison Schmidt said the school board and administrators are ready to work on a list of priority projects.
"When you start fund-raising, you'll be able to tell people what items specifically the funds are going toward," she said. "Most would fall under the buildings and grounds committee, so they would be working with the board on a list of priorities ... I feel so blessed to be in this district and all these communities that are willing to come out and support us with this."
From there, ideas flowed, from targeting businesses for donations, to fund-raisers that could encompass entire families.
"It would be nice to incorporate the children into the fund-raisers," said Mandy Cain, a Sherburn-Welcome police officer. "It would not only be showing the children that people care about them, but it would also show them how to support something that is important to you."
One reality check from Krogman: the group is starting from ground zero.
"Right now, we don't even have money for stamps to send out fund-raising letters," he said. "But if the school board and administration decide that the first thing is updating the video surveillance, my personal goal would be to have it done in all three schools by the start of the next school year. I don't know if it's attainable or not."
No one shot down the idea, and most everyone at the meeting was excited to be a part of the process.
"I was glad to see so many people here," Krogman said. "I was worried there would only be four or five people here ... Now our duty is to get organized and get these fund-raisers started."