While details of security at North Branford Public Schools have only been discussed in executive session at both the December Board of Education meeting and the Jan. 8 Town Council meeting, residents turned up in force at both meetings to share their thoughts.
At the Town Council meeting, Northford resident and New Haven firefighter Gary Cole gave a speech on his thoughts on the actions that should be taken in the wake of the Newtown shootings.
Cole, who started a Facebook page North Branford School Parents United, has three children in the North Branford school system, including at Totoket Valley Elementary School.
“I am sick to my stomach every time I walk through that front door at TVES and don’t have to come near the office – no one has to see you,” said Cole. “I applaud [Superintendent] Scott [Schoonmaker] and the Board of Ed because they hit the ground running, but actions speak louder than words.”
Cole went on to stress the importance of hiring a professional security firm and getting input from the many resources available to the town. Cole’s full speech is attached as a PDF.
“I would like to propose that we form an ad hoc school safety committee dedicated to formulating a comprehensive Plan and Procedure as well as finding out what security upgrades are needed for Crisis Management and Prevention,” said Cole. “This would provide a framework in which the school can plan for and carry out its respective emergency functions during any school crisis situation.”
The December North Branford Board of Education meeting opened with Brent Aiken – a North Branford resident and parent who was also one of the first Connecticut State Troopers to respond to the Newtown shooting – asking the board to “fully reexamine the security issues they have and define your definition of safe and secure.”
Aiken offered his support and help, noting the “safety of children and the safety of the staff has to be paramount.”
Schoonmaker said that they had done security assessments of all five facilities with the North Branford Police Department, which would be discussed in executive session. He also explained that security has been tightened with every visitor being checked in and out.
He went on to thank members of the NBPD, many of whom were “working 16-hour shifts to make sure we had all buildings covered. We appreciate your support, rapport with students and making students feel comfortable,” he said. “Thank you Brent for what you do and what you did. I want to publicly thank the state police and the first responders. You are our heroes.”
The Board of Ed meeting concluded with public comments where Rose Angeloni, a secretary at TVES, asked the Board to be sure that any new policies are the “same at all schools and that basic procedures need to have consistency and apply to everyone so there’s no misinterpretation.” She went on to ask parents and visitors for their patience as new procedures are implemented and enforced.
Northford resident Cliff Potter encouraged fellow residents “not to get hardened” and “If you see something, say something. Every citizen in this town is responsible for our students.”