Tuesday night’s Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education meeting brought several concerned parents and students out to discuss security concerns and improvements at district schools.
Superintendent Gerard Poole assured parents that security and safety are under constant review and that, in the past few years, the district has spent about $2 million on safety-related infrastructure improvements. The district will also be adding two more security guards to the staff at the high school to be there “when the school is most open.”
Mr. Poole went on to say that the district went under a security audit this fall, which took the better part of a month, and has developed a multi-pronged plan to enhance security. In addition, the district hired consulting firm Covert Operations to help strengthen drills.
“We are in a position of strength in security and safety in the school district, however we are always looking to improve,” Mr. Poole said.
Eleventh-grader Kathleen Loscalzo questioned the ease with which students to enter the school, noting that although all students have ID cards, they only need them to buy lunch.
“Kids who don’t go to this school can put backpacks on and they look like any other student,” Kathleen said.
Mr. Poole said that student feedback is very important, which is why there will be interactive student assemblies at which they will be able to voice their opinions about drills and emergency plans.
“We will be able to meet with them and hear what they’re seeing, what they’re feeling from drills to strengthen them,” Mr. Poole said. “Most of the school is made up of students and we want to make sure that we hear very closely from them. What are some things that they’re seeing from the drills that’s not coming up to us.”
The superintendent reviewed completed security projects, which include the installation of bollards — steel poles filled with concrete to keep vehicles off sidewalks — at the elementary schools and new burglar and fire alarm systems across the district.
Construction of a vestibule at the high school, which was scheduled for summer 2020, has been moved up to this spring. Additionally the district is working on implementing a visitor management system, which scans driver’s licenses and checks them against databases, in all buildings this spring.
Board members asked about adopting a “one-button lockdown” system and Donald Flynn, owner of Covert Operations, said that was a generic term that doesn’t apply to one vendor, but is something the school could consider.
More on the budget
The second budget presentation for the 2018-19 school year addressed employee salaries and benefits, which account for about 71 percent of the total expenditures.
Employee salaries are forecast based on contractual obligations included in the collective bargaining agreement. The 2018-19 budget will allocate $33,811,370 for salaries, which constitute about 45 percent of the total budget. This amount represents a reduction of .42 percent, or $143,000, from last year.
Employee benefits include the teachers’ and employees’ retirement systems, as well as health plan premiums, for which an increased of 10 percent has been allocated. The proposed overall budget for benefits will be $19,205,941, an increase of 4.18 percent, or approximately $770,000, over last year. All together, salaries and benefits represent 70.9 percent of the total proposed expenditures for upcoming school year.
The school board is set to approve the budget in April, and the public will vote in May.
Photo caption: Superintendent Gerard Poole, left, and Robert Rose, the president of the school board, at the meeting on Tuesday night. (Rachel Siford)