Editor's Note: This article was written and submitted by Chris Boyle.
While approving a measure that would provide a district-wide safety evaluation by a private security firm, the Merrick Board of Education (BOE) temporarily nixed the idea of hiring security personnel to patrol their schools until a possible later date.
Superintendent Dr. Dominick Palma, addressing concerns raised by residents following the horrific school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, discussed the district’s revamped security measures extensively, including two new measures that would require Board majority votes that evening to be instituted.Like Merrick Patch on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.
“Immediately following the tragedy in Connecticut, we began to review all of our emergency response procedures with our staff,” Palma said. “We started with visitor control and moved on from there.”
First, Palma proposed to hire Summit Security Services to provide one unarmed, on-foot security guard for each of the district’s three schools for the remainder of the 2012-2013 school year, after which time the decision would be made whether to continue Summit’s services into the next school year or not.
The cost to the district for security personnel to be provided was Summit Security until the end of the current school year was estimated to be $55,000.
Another matter up for vote at the meeting involved the possible hire of Altaris Consulting Services, a firm specializing in school safety and security. Palma outlined their excellent track record in other school districts, saying that they possessed the ability to quickly provide in-depth recommendations for security enhancements, as well as follow-up training for district staff members.
Prior to voting on the new security measures, the board allowed parents in the audience to make statements, and several speakers pled with the district to approve the hiring of guards as quickly as possible to ensure the protection of the children.
However, others urged a more cautious approach, citing both fiscal concerns as well as a perceived need for additional manpower to get the job done properly.
In the end, the board failed to get the four required votes from its members to approve the hiring of Summit Security Services, but approved the evaluation and training offered by Altaris Consulting and stated that the decision to hire guards would be re-evaluated pending the initial findings of Altaris’ report.
The decision to delay the hiring of guards upset many, but Trustee Butch Yamali said that one unarmed guard simply wasn’t enough to provide adequate protection to students.
“We need two or even three guards per school,” Yamali said. “Hiring one isn’t going to help. If they’re sitting out in front of the school, and something’s happening out back, they won’t even know about it. How can one man handle an entire campus? We need to wait for Altaris’ evaluation and then follow their recommendations to keep our kids safe.”
In addition to the assistance of Altaris Consulting, Superintendent Palma also outlined other security and safety measures the Merrick School District has to secure the well-being of students, including staff training in emergency response, visitor access restrictions and on-going consultation from Nassau County Problem Oriented Police (POP) officers.
Palma also said that Intralogic Solutions, the company behind the District’s current closed-circuit camera system, will be conducting a technological audit to determine tech enhancements to improve safety and security. Also, BBS Architects and Engineers will be reviewing building and perimeter security, as well as providing preliminary designs for secured entry vestibules at each of the district’s three schools.What are your thoughts on the district's ruling? Tell us in the comments section below.
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