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Superintendent Hosts Community Forum On School Security



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Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, led a community forum on Wednesday, October 28, the latest in the continuing forum series designed to be one-hour discussions with community members.

Wednesday’s forum was expected to focus on safety, security, discipline, and student transitions.

Mark Pompano, the district’s director of security, spoke at the start of the evening, and he shared an overview of security in the district.

“The one thing we have in the district that we probably didn’t have in the district before I got here is an emergency operations plan,” said Mr Pompano. “What we did was we brought all the schools together and put together a plan that is pretty much step-by-step to an administrator what to do during a vast amount of emergencies.”

Students also practice for more than just fire drills, according to Mr Pompano. Students practice drills for lock-ins, which would be implemented if a risk is assumed outside of a building; lock-downs, which are the drills for the highest level of a security risk; shelter in place drills; and high wind drills, according to Mr Pompano.

In the event of trees falling, Mr Pompano said exterior windows are covered in a shatter-resistant film.

“There is a number of reasons for that,” said Mr Pompano. “In the event of a high wind event, tree limbs could not smash that glass.”

All the interior glass, thanks to a donation by a business, Mr Pompano said, are also being covered by the shatter-resistant film.

Mr Pompano also explained security protocols for when visitors arrive, including the Raptor Visitor Management System, which was installed for the start of this school year. The system scans a visitor’s identification card, checks the name with a national registered sexual offender database, and helps monitor where people are in a school building.

In response to a later question, Mr Pompano said the system will never be able to search for more than the sexual offender database, because that information is public domain and other information is not.

“Each school has an armed presence, whether it be with an SRO [school resource officer], SSO [school security officer], or a combination or both,” said Mr Pompano.

An SRO, Mr Pompano explained, is a Newtown police officer assigned to a school. While SROs have the full abilities of a police officer, Mr Pompano said their presence is also educational.

“They are more in the school to educate than security,” said Mr Pompano.

SSOs, he said, are armed officers.

“They work for the town police department; however, they do not have the power to arrest,” Mr Pompano said.

Gates at the entrances to the schools were also added at the start of this school year, covered by a grant, following three risk assessments conducted after the events of 12/14, according to Mr Pompano.

“The purpose of the gates… it affords the administration the option during a simple fire drill to close the gate to stop vehicles from coming on campus and to allow staff and students to cross the street without having to dodge cars.”

Along with explaining a digital two-way radio system that allows communication between the school system, Mr Pompano also spoke about tabletop emergency response exercises that have been completed in the district.

“I think the way forward is smart products that allow us to not react but to nip something in the bud,” said Mr Pompano at the end of his portion of the forum.

Dr Erardi also spoke about the school district’s Security Committee, which includes representation from the Board of Education, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, University of California Los Angeles, and others.

Dr Erardi said that he knows parents may want all the details about security measures and plans, but explained that when sharing details it is hard to control where the information spreads.

The superintendent and Mr Pompano fielded questions from community forum attendees about security before the discussion moved on to other topics.

The next community forum is slated for December 16, at 7 pm. It will take place in Newtown High School's Lecture Hall.

Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, spoke during a community forum on Wednesday, October 28. The next community forum is slated for December 16, at 7 pm, at the Newtown High School Lecture Hall.
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