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Former police chief joins WPS team

Steve Trask spent 33 years working as a police officer in the city of Framingham. “I loved every second of being a police officer,” Trask said. He retired in 2020 as the Police Chief and Emergency Management Director and came out of retirement in April to take on a new role as Westwood Public Schools’ very first Director of Safety & Security.

According to Westwood School Superintendent Emily Parks, bringing Trask onboard is part of a larger strategy around safety and security that includes both security infrastructure and protocols, as well as a focus on school climate and mental health. While the district has a robust system of student support and counselors already in place, it has been helpful to have someone with Trask’s knowledge and skill set join the district team. 

“In addition to educating our students, the safety of our students and staff is our top priority,” said Parks. “Steve’s background and expertise make him a valued addition to Westwood Public Schools. We are pleased to have him on board as he updates and improves our safety plans.”

“I spent the first couple of months getting the lay of the land in terms of what buildings look like, rewriting some plans and putting new plans into place about lockdowns, reunification protocols and target hardening,” said Trask. “Overall, the plans already in place here were very strong. We will continue to improve upon these and update wherever necessary.”

Trask explained that “target hardening” refers to improving communications capabilities in the event of a public safety crisis, looking at the actual physical structure of each school, determining if exit and entrance procedures are adequate, sign-in procedures, and other safety protocols.

“We also know that promoting a positive climate in schools and a sense of belonging amongst our students is important and preventative,” said Trask. “I have found that Westwood has done an excellent job in this regard.”

Most of Trask’s work is classified as “behind the scenes,” by his own account. He sees himself as a resource for the staff and administration to use and says this is where his previous position leading Framingham’s Department of Emergency Management really comes into play. “When I write safety plans, I’m not in them,” said Trask. “When there’s an emergency, there’s a chance I won’t be there. The point is to give them well-written plans and the knowledge and equipment needed to execute those plans.”

Trask admits that incidents like the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas last spring give him pause, but also guide him in his new position. “While the shooting in Texas is still being investigated, we do know it was a complete failure on a lot of fronts,” he said. “We use incidents like this one to learn and to talk to our staff about best practices.”

Even as recently as 5-10 years ago, only larger city school districts had Safety & Security Directors or police officers on duty. Trask said the 1999 Columbine school shooting was looked at as an anomaly, but that has changed as the incidents of school shootings have increased.

“Superintendents and principals have a lot on their plates educating and making sure their schools are staffed properly,” said Trask. “It’s helpful for them to have another set of eyes. They didn’t get into the business to be security professionals, nor do I want them to be.”

While Trask will not have much direct interaction with students, he expects his work will have an impact on their parents. “The parents should rest a little easier knowing that people are looking at the safety of the schools in this district,” he said.  “Hopefully the stuff I do never gets put into practice, but if needed, we will make sure the district is ready.”

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