Parents: Why weren’t middle schoolers evacuated during SWR bomb threat?

11/16/2011 12:30 PM |

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Ellen Kaspar of Shoreham and Mary Hoerner of Wading River demanded to know at Tuesday's Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting why their children were not evacuated from Prodell Middle School during a bomb scare last Monday.

At least two parents are furious their children were not evacuated from Shoreham-Wading River’s middle school last Monday after a bomb threat was left on a voicemail at the district high school.

The district’s three elementary schools and the high school were evacuated, while the middle school was not, district officials said.

“I was shocked when my son came home and said, ‘We were sent to the back gym,’ ” Ellen Kaspar of Shoreham said at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

The district also issued an incorrect statement through its public relations firm, Syntax, indicating that all five of the district’s buildings were evacuated, according to Ms. Kaspar and Mary Hoerner of Wading River.

“I was under the impression that evacuation meant getting the students out of the building,” Ms. Hoerner said. “Not bringing them to the gym.”

Superintendent Steven Cohen said the district’s failure to evacuate the middle school during the bomb scare “was not the only glitch.”

“The entire process of evacuation is being reviewed,” he said. “The district had not done a bomb threat evacuation drill in some time. We’re in the process of fixing things we’ve discovered were not working properly.”

Suffolk police searched the district’s buildings Monday but found no evidence of a bomb, and students who were evacuated returned to their classrooms after the buildings were deemed safe.

School officials said the person who left the voicemail has not yet been identified.

“I just hope it doesn’t happen again,” Ms. Hoerner said, referring to the misinformation regarding the middle school.

Dr. Cohen assured her such an incident would not happen again and said he would put forth a new evacuation protocol in the next few weeks.


Jacqueline Godfrey, a Shoreham-Wading River High School senior, asked the board for assistance in continuing an anti-bullying effort after she graduates.

Ms. Godfrey is spearheading Mix It Up at Lunch, a week-long event taking place at schools across the country that encourages students to sit with someone new in the cafeteria. The event began Monday and will run until Friday.

“The idea behind it is you wouldn’t bully someone if you sat next to them at lunch,” said Ms. Godfrey, 17.

She got involved with the program after being bullied so badly herself at Prodell Middle School that she decided to leave the district for McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead. She later transferred back to Shoreham-Wading River.

“We’ll certainly try to continue this process,” board vice president Michael Fucito told her.

Maria Quartararo of Shoreham, a mother of three who brought her daughter’s bullying issues before the school board last year, urged board members to closely look at bullying, specifically in the middle school.

She said her daughter was bullied for two years and sustained a broken wrist during one of the incidents. Her daughter now attends high school in another district.

Ms. Quartararo said concerns she expressed to board members at the time of the incidents fell on deaf ears.

“I was told I was a crazy woman and that this doesn’t happen,” Ms. Quartararo said.

“You can’t keep pushing it under the rug,” she continued. “Something is going on at that middle school and you need to figure it out.”


The school board voted to table a resolution to settle pending disciplinary charges with an employee, who was not named on the meeting’s agenda.

The disciplinary charges include “misconduct, incompetence, conduct unbecoming and insubordination,” according to the agenda.

School officials declined to provide the employee’s name or further details of the charges.

The Riverhead News-Review has filed Freedom of Information Law request with the district seeking more information.


Dr. Cohen announced that health and safety projects approved by voters in May 2010 were completed this past summer for $1.1 million under budget. A total of about $3 million was budgeted for projects at the middle school and at Briarcliff Elementary School.

Dr. Cohen said the space and facilities committee will discuss how to best use the money and present recommendations to the board.


Frederick Seeba of BBS Architecture in Patchogue said the two capital improvement projects voters approved during this past May’s budget vote — a fuel tank replacement and a drainage improvement project — are both set to be completed by next summer.

Fuel tanks at the high school and at Wading River, Miller Avenue and Briarcliff elementary schools will be removed and replaced early next summer. The district will asks for bids from contractors in February.

Mr. Seeba said asking for bids in February, when business is expected to be slow for contractors, will be beneficial to the district.

“I think you’ll get some good contractors and some favorable prices,” he said.

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