Friday, November 24, 2006
Safety top priority, Carlisle School administrators stress
In an informal setting in the Corey Dining Room on November 16 approximately 50 parents met with Carlisle School Superintendent Marie Doyle and other administrators to converse about school safety. Also attending was Carlisle Police Chief John Sullivan and Sergeant Scott Barnes. The meeting, run by the Carlisle School Association (CSA), was a forum to update parents about the latest school security procedures and to allow parents to ask questions. The school administration has been reviewing school security procedures since October 19, when police questioned a Shrewsbury man found loitering by the school grounds. Having committed no crime, the man was not detained, but has been deemed a "person of interest" by the police.
New and enhanced procedures
Doyle explained that all volunteers must sign in at the main office and receive a badge before entering any building. Teachers will soon be wearing picture IDs. All exterior doors (facing the outside of the campus) will be locked, including the pre-school door.
Chief Sullivan thanked the school for the "pro-active" approach. He said the school did "a great job" on the lockdown exercise, and then said the school performs at "110% to support security." Watchful parents and citizens are the biggest deterrent to crime, he stressed, saying, "You call us, we'll be out in two minutes." He said after the "person of interest" situation, he has had unmarked police cars on the campus every day. Doyle pointed out they had to switch to unmarked cars because the police cars were making the younger children afraid.
Staffing for lunch and recess
Carlisle Elementary School Principal Patrice Hurley quickly ran through the recess/lunch staffing. There will be two or three staff members in the Castle area when it is open, and there will always be a staff member monitoring the football area in the bus driveway. There are two staff members in charge of the lunch room, and additionally two to four staff members helping specific students. Teachers for grades K — 4 will always meet the class at the end of lunch to escort them to their classrooms. If recess is indoors, a staff member or volunteer will be assigned to each classroom and will watch students as they go to and from the bathroom. "We don't want to alarm the children, but we are making sure we give clear instructions." She said the kids are being taught they have the "right to not do what an adult says" if they do not recognize the adult, but should instead go to an adult they know.
Carlisle Middle School Principal Paul Graseck, apologizing for not knowing all parents by sight, warned he may be asking parents to go to the office for a badge. "It's most important," he said, that volunteers "be aggressive talking to people." He said he and Hurley spend a "considerable time" on the plaza and in the lunch room, which adds to the safety of the students. A request for more recess volunteers was made by the CSA volunteer coordinator.
Questions from parents
CSA President Dale Ryder said she had a series of questions which were sent to her by parents. She said the administration would answer them, and then take questions from the group as time allowed.
1. Why don't teachers meet students at the start of the day? Hurley pointed out the arrival times vary. The teachers are involved in getting their rooms set up. The bus drivers watch the students until they are on the plaza, she added.
2. How does the school deal with restraining orders? Doyle responded that the staff is notified and will put special procedures in place. "More children are harmed by people they know" than people they do not know, she added. Later at the open comment time, parent Muggsie Rocco, saying she was more concerned with domestic violence than "stranger danger," offered to discuss how to handle domestic violence situations.
3. When would a lockdown be implemented? "When someone is in the building and we don't know who they are," answered Hurley. Only if there is a serious security breach, added Doyle.
4. How prevalent are guns and weapons in Carlisle? "It's just like any other community," answered Sergeant Barnes. To find out if guns are kept in a home, parents should ask the other parents, he recommended, because the police are not able to give out that information.
5. Are state criminal background (CORI) checks run on vendors? Yes, answered Carlisle School Buildings and Grounds Supervisor David Flannery. All outside workers will be CORI'd and escorted. If there is not time to have them CORI'd (e.g., emergency repair) then they will be escorted at all times.
6. Why doesn't the school have personnel (monitors) stationed at every door? Graseck explained it would be "extremely labor intensive." Even if the school installed the best high-tech security system, strangers could still get in. The best defense is the school's vigilance, he added.
7. Why aren't there more walking paths to school? The biggest danger for students, added a parent from the audience, is not at school but in walking in the streets and narrowly missing a car. Doyle said the Carlisle Pedestrian and Bike Safety Committee is working to get paths.
8. How can parents feel comfortable challenging someone without a badge? Hurley said she is developing a simple script that can be used when asking someone to go to the office to sign in and get a badge.
request more vigilance
Parents were given about 30 minutes to comment and ask questions. Parent Mary Kirlin, noting how hard it is for the administrators in the main office to see who enters the plaza, wondered if an office could be created in the lobby of the Corey Auditorium so someone could sit and watch people as they approach the school. Doyle noted how cold the lobby is and how isolated a secretary would feel in the space. Parent Robert Jafari, agreeing with Kirlin, said it wouldn't be expensive to install heat and walls. Parent Peg Gladstone suggested that teachers who are not busy in the morning, such as the special education teachers, could come out to the plaza when the students arrive. Parent Mary Beth Stevenson suggested installing a sign explaining the security rules and guiding visitors to the main office.
need more supervision
Parent Dennis McCollum suggested Spalding should be more of a "lockdown" building. It is separate from the other buildings, he pointed out, and more exposed to the street. It also houses the youngest students, K - 1 (the pre-school is in the Wilkins Building). He felt there should be a one-point entry for the building. He was concerned about the bathroom buddy system. The two bathrooms in the kindergarten wing are the oldest on the campus and accommodate only one student. They are down the hall from the classrooms, across from the Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language rooms. McCollum acknowledged the building is extremely challenging. Parent Robert Jafari relayed a story of two children who got lost and ended up on Spalding Field. He said a five year old was sent to the nurse by himself. Parent Mary Beth Stevenson, noting the need for a replacement for Spalding, said parents should put pressure on the Finance Committee.
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