The Parsippany Board of Education held a moment of silence during its meeting Thursday night in memory of the 20 children and six adults gunned down last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Board President Dr. Frank Calabria said it was difficult for him to find the words to express his feelings about “this unspeakable horror.”
“Today I was at an elementary school, and I saw these little sixth- and seventh-graders walking,” Calabria said. “It was all I could do to not hug every single one of them.”
Calabria has also suggested the board perform a good day each day for 26 days in honor of the 26 victims. He also suggested expediting a district-wide study that will help the board make recommendations as to what the district can to protect students.
Calabria said situations like what happened in Newtown have placed school districts in a scary situation. For instance, he said there was a truck up the road from one of the schools the other day.
“Ordinarily, that would be OK,” the board president said. “But now we have administrators calling police and checking on this, that and the other thing.”
Some individuals have even begun discussing the possibility of arming teachers, he said.
Security at Parsippany Schools
Calabria said he would like action done to secure Parsippany schools no later than the end of January.
“We have to act quickly on it,” he said. “It’s going to be done.”
Paul Saxton, the district’s interim director of personnel, said Superintendent Dr. LeRoy Seitz is in the process of developing a district-wide committee to bring in various insights and review the district’s processes and policies.
Saxton, who is sitting in for Seitz while he is ill, said the committee would represent different stakeholders in the community, the police department and others with expertise in security.
Board member Fran Orthwein requested serious consideration for putting funds back in the 2012-13 budget for a full-time School Resource Officer at each of the district’s two high schools. For the past two years, there has only been one SRO going back and forth between the two schools.
Resident Tim Berrios suggested he would feel better if both high schools were included on police patrols.
“Once or twice a day, a patrol officer could stop by the school and maybe check in with the principal to see how things are going,” Berrios said.
Berrios also mentioned he has never been escorted to the offices at Parsippany High School after being buzzed in during the day, suggesting that procedure be changed.
Saxton said he believes police patrolling the schools is an “ongoing process” and noted that the committee Seitz is developing will also address physical and internal school security procedures.
“Be assured the areas of concern you raised are being addressed,” Saxton said.