Listen, Understand, Act

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Following a purposeful and informative linkage meeting with parents and community members April 19th at Newark High School, at which several attending asked questions and or voiced opinions, mostly in favor of the Newark Board of Education’s consideration of expanding the school district’s Safety and Security Structure to include three concealed carry security personnel, the Board will now carefully weigh input it received and move forward in its decision-making process.

That will include consideration of input it not only received at the linkage meeting, but from some 311 survey respondents who overwhelmingly favored adding concealed carry security personnel at Newark High School, Newark Middle School and the elementary schools. Concealed carry is when you carry a weapon, in most cases a firearm, concealed while out in public.

Before an amicable and productive question and answer session in the NHS auditorium April 19th, Superintendent Susan Hasenauer outlined numerous pro-active steps the school district has taken since she began working for the NCSD in February 2021 to greatly enhance District safety and security practices.

Among the first was strict enforcement of Policy 6180 relating to fraternization between students and staff; revamping the District’s Code of Conduct; establishing a 24-hour, anonymous, safe school helpline; and increasing meaningful, two-way communication with the establishment of ParentSquare that connects schools, teachers, families and students.

In November and again in March, Hasenauer and members of the school district’s Threat Assessment Team made in-depth presentations at the Four County School Boards Association’s School Safety and Security meetings on how the district came to employ a multi-faceted approach to violence prevention, including the implementation of a Behavioral Threat Assessment Team Model and some safety-related upgrades being made to technology, security infrastructure and communication systems.

At the November meeting, North-Rose Wolcott Superintendent Michael Pullen commended the NCSD team for “setting the bar” on proactive safety and security practices in the region.

The process began in June 2021 with the NCSD retaining At Risk International to conduct a thorough audit of the school district’s emergency response plans, as well as their resources and capability to respond to emergency situations. In its wake, many changes have ensued, including the enhancement of both district-wide and building level emergency response plans to ensure consistency among all five schools; staff readiness to handle emergencies through extensive training; and local and state compliance.

Right after the Four County School Boards Association presentation in November, Steve Chatterton, Director of Security at Greece CSD who also works part-time for At Risk International, said the changes Newark has implemented have put the district in the top 5 percent of districts in the state in terms of safety and security practices.

And since one of the most important components of the protocols is staff readiness, emergency response tabletop exercises have been held or scheduled at each of the five district schools to ascertain how well-prepared staff is through practice simulations and threat assessment discussions.

The next pro-active step in enhancing District security would be to add rigorously trained, private security providers or more School Resource Officers if they were available. The NCSD currently has SRO Kevin Vaughn, who is armed, and maintains a presence, as appropriate, in all five district schools while many other Wayne County school districts lack an SRO due to the shortage of sheriff ’s deputies.

Following Hasenauer’s talk and Powerpoint presentation, Jared Rene and Drew Forsythe, owners of Patriot Protection and Investigations in Rochester, talked briefly about the benefits of having skilled and current or retired law enforcement officers that their firm provides working as concealed carry personnel in school districts.

They said studies show these rigorously trained individuals are a real deterrent to active shooters and adding some to the NCSD’s Safety and Security Structure would only enhance it.

Several individuals asked questions or made suggestions during the Q&A session. All but one was in favor of adding concealed carry security personnel. Of those in favor, most also wanted one at each of the five schools.

One parent who is in favor of adding concealed carry officers to the District’s Safety and Security Structure, said he appreciated that “the security steps you already have put in place are much more comprehensive than I thought.”

Both Hasenauer and BOE President Brad Steve thanked everyone for their input.

They said the BOE will be carefully weighing all the information they have received from the surveys and at the April 19th linkage meeting before making any decisions, including the costs of retaining three or possibly more concealed carry security personnel, as some survey respondents and most who spoke at the linkage meeting said they would prefer.

Hasenauer said the school district will keep parents and the community informed every step of the way, beginning with a question-and-answer fact sheet that will be available soon.