Written by Joy Robinson and Linda Portney Goldstein, email@example.com Thursday, 11 April 2013 00:00
Port Washington schools superintendent Dr. Kathleen Mooney recommended a two-pronged approach to enhance security in the district at the April 2 meeting. Mooney described a “visitor management system” known as ScholarChip, which would be purchased with funds from the 2013-2014 budget. Many surrounding districts have already implemented the program, which scans a person’s driver’s license and then immediately prints out a photo identification for all school visitors. The system checks several databases to determine if the visitor poses a threat. For individuals who do not have a driver’s license, other forms of identification can be used.
During the discussion following the security presentation there seemed to be broad support among board members for the ScholarChip program. On the other hand, the “boots on the ground” proposal which represents the second prong of the enhanced security plan, met with some skepticism.
“The addition of trained security aids will offer a really good physical presence among the schools, and by hiring 4 instead of the proposed 7, that’s an annual cost of $120,000 as opposed to $210, 000,” said Mooney. Each security aide would be responsible for two schools. One would be divided between Manorhaven and Sousa Elementary Schools, a second aide between Daly and Guggenheim, a third between Salem and Weber, and a fourth “floater” aid in case someone is absent. Mooney told board members that principals have been diligent the past few months in conducting lockouts, lockdowns, and fire drills; however it is time to move forward.
Board president Karen Sloan challenged Mooney on the need for more security aids on school grounds. “Will the placement of these proposed aids really make a difference if someone were to threaten a building armed with a machine gun?” asked Sloan.
David Miller, assistant principal at Schreiber, said, “No piece of technology can do a better job than having people on the ground or having eyes around your school. Having these additional four guards will expand the safety and presence around our elementary school children.” Currently, there is no presence around those buildings. The idea of “keeping an eye on who is outside” is important for reasons ranging from potential threats to having predators parked around corners, according to Miller. “We need to put boots on the ground,” he said.
Weber Middle School and Paul D. Schreiber High School both currently have former NYC Police Department officers. They know when something is not the norm because of their extensive experience. “I think that bringing in these people will be money incredibly well spent, ”said Miller.
Some members of the Board questioned the effectiveness of sharing aides between two schools while others seemed to doubt if additional security aides could ensure the safety in the schools.
Mooney responded, “We do have difficult decisions to make, and there’s only so much money to go around. Let’s use it as wisely, prudently, and as appropriately as possible.”
In other business, Architect Jim Wading had positive news. “As of last week, we have approval on plans for Schreiber, Weber, Guggenheim and Sousa for roofing and masonry construction. The bidding process will begin by the end of the month and Wading is confident that there will be a significant number of responses. Work is scheduled to begin when school ends and be almost complete by the beginning of school in September.
Of the four projects, Weber Middle School is the biggest job with an expected completion date of November 1st. Nicolas Amoruso, Principal of School Construction Consultants Inc., answered Karen Sloan’s concern about interruption to school programs that may begin in late August. “We will work diligently to make this a seamless project for everyone and will work around the kids, not to disturb the entire education process,” said Amoruso. He stressed that work remaining to be completed at Weber after school begins in September will be “finishing work and clean-up.”
In regard to the many comments community members raised -- including a 3rd grader who read a letter at the podium-- in favor of keeping the Port Enrichment Program (PEP), Dr. Mooney said that PEP should be maintained in its current form for the next school year.