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School Safety and Security is Top of Mind at the Board of Education Meeting

FoxMeadowCupolaSchool safety and security remain top of mind for district parents. At the October 21 meeting of the Scarsdale School Board PTC President Joey Silberfein gave lengthy public comments calling for the school administration to allow parent representation on the district’s Safety, Security, Emergency Management Committee and District Safety Director Mike Spedaliere gave an update on safety drills conducted by the schools to date this school year.

The issue of the composition of the SSEM Projects Committee was also discussed at the September meeting. That committee reviews and recommends projects for implementation. This committee is comprised of cabinet members (administrators), staff leadership and a member of the Board of Education. There are no parents on this committee.

According to School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Hagerman, the role of this committee is to define best practices, look for opportunities for mitigation and put these projects into a timeline for review and implementation.

At the September meeting, Board members Karen Ceske and Ron Schulhof asked the administration to assign a parent to this committee on a trial basis. Carl Finger asked the district to outline the roles of these various committees on the website to clarify confusion about the district’s four safety committees. (To date this information has not been posted.) At the conclusion of the September meeting, Dr. Hagerman said the composition of the SSEM committee would be re-considered. Since that time, a teacher was added, however parents remain unrepresented.

At the meeting on October 21, Joey Silberfein, who is President of the PT Council said the PTC Executive Committee was “Disappointed that the district has made a decision not to include parent representation in the newly formed SSEM Projects Committee which we understand will make critical decisions about safety and security measures to implement and how to prioritize that implementation measures in our schools.” She said, “We have yet to hear a compelling reason to justify the reason for excluding parents who represent over half the users of district buildings on such a committee.”

She continued, “Why is this so important? … First of all – these are our children in the buildings. We have an obvious stake in their safety, security and health. Our aim is the same as yours. Keeping our children safe. Second – we and our children use the buildings. As parents, we provide a much-needed perspective and feedback on safety measures that should be implemented. We also have access to information from our children and a different perspective than anyone at this table. We should use that perspective to the district’s benefit. Parents use the buildings in a unique way and our input is valuable and necessary. The parents in this community have not heard a consistent or compelling reason why parent representation should not be added.”

“The reasons we have heard articulated are that the committee doesn’t want to add parents, that parents are represented elsewhere and that there are confidentiality concerns. We believe these reasons are red herrings. Along with the Board of Education we believe that these questions should never have gone to the committee. The district should be making the decision about the representation of a district committee …. While representation on other district committees is also important and necessary that representation is not a substitute for representation on the SSEM Committee which plays a different role. In fact it’s this different role why teachers and Board of Ed members wanted to be added to the committee.”

“We are here again to press upon you the importance of parent representation on the SSEM Committee, a committee which has the role of ultimate policy formulation. There is also no basis to believe that the PTC President would not honor confidentiality or would somehow breach confidentiality. Dr. Hagerman has noted that the committee is mostly housekeeping and is winding down. If that’s the case, why would a teacher and a Board of Education representative just get added? Why would people object so strenuously to a parent being there?”

“All stakeholders should have representation on the committee and parents are equally important stakeholders. Parents should be there too. We are equally important stakeholders and we should be there too. The SSEM is missing an important voice that is integral to their decision making. If you are ultimately not going to have a parent on the committee, we implore you to get parent input before decisions are made.”

Safety and Security Update

Director of District Security Mike Spedaliere gave an update on year to date security activities reporting that the district has run:

26 fire drills throughout the district – some with the participation of the Fire Department
5 lock down drills – with the assistance of the police
2 evacuation drills and 7 bus drills

He said, “We are well on our way to meeting our required number of drills by December 31”

They have also been running tabletop training exercises and assigning school staff to their positions in case of an emergency. He said, “People will be familiar with their duties in the event of an emergency.” Mattey reported that the district is working on “Improvements to the lock down systems, evacuation procedures, identifying meeting spots and visitor procedures. He said that the district’s emergency communications system would be tested on October 29 with test emergency emails and texts sent to parents and high school students. In addition, Mattey reported that the district is looking to improve their overall internal radio communications within and between district schools.

Board President Scott Silberfein said he heard about several fires at Scarsdale High School due to vaping. Mike Spedaliere said there are cameras in the bathrooms and that aides are checking the bathrooms. However the two alarms had nothing to do with vaping. Dr. Hagerman noted that educating students about the dangerous chemicals involved in vaping was important to prevent students from risking their health.

Finally, the Board adopted the District-Wide Safety and Emergency Plan that details the district’s preparedness plan and emergency response protocols. The purpose of the plan is outlined here:

“Districts are required to develop district-wide school safety and emergency management plans designed to prevent and effectively manage such events to minimize the effects of serious incidents and emergencies. These plans also facilitate the coordination of the District with local and county plans and resources when incidents and emergencies occur” Districts are required to develop district-wide school safety and emergency management plans designed to prevent and effectively manage such events to minimize the effects of serious incidents and emergencies. These plans also facilitate the coordination of the District with local and county plans and resources when incidents and emergencies occur.

See the entire plan here:

During the meeting, Board member Ron Schulhof said he supported parent representation on the SSEM committee. In the follow-up comments to the meeting, Board President Scott Silberfein said it was up to the district to communicate with the PTC on the issue of the composition of the committee. Dr. Hagerman said they had met and discussed the issue.
Also of interest ….
Theater

The Board appointed Tobias Peltier as the new theater coordinator – a new title for the district. He is a Tony-award winner. During the facilities portion of the meeting, Stuart Mattey announced that funds may finally be available to update the theater/auditorium at Scarsdale High School, an item that has been cut from several bonds and budgets.

Lights at Butler Field

The Board approved a proposal to accept a gift of $48,502 from Maroon and White at their next meeting to begin the architectural work and soil borings to install the lights at Butler Field in advance of the fundraising to pay for the entire project. The target date for the fundraising of $810,000 is January 2020 and they hope to install the lights in the summer of 2020.

comfortstationRendering of proposed comfort station at Scarsdale Middle School.Comfort Station at Scarsdale Middle School

Another long-discussed item also appears to be in process. That is a bathroom – or comfort station at the Scarsdale Middle School Tennis Courts. The school district met with the Village to discuss the project. Mattey proposed a resolution to the Board to support the project at their next meeting. A memorandum of understanding or licensing agreement would lay out all the details around building and managing the station. Dr. Hagerman complimented the design and said it would be a nice addition to the district.

Greenacres Elementary School

A meeting with the Greenacres Neighborhood Association will be held on Wednesday October 30 at 7 pm at Greenacres. The community is invited. Mattey reported that the construction process and daily environmental testing are going well.

Watch the meeting online here.

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