Parents want action and updates on school security efforts

Parents concerned about school security went looking for answers at last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting.

Lori McKeon said while plans have been readied for three security upgrade projects at the schools, nothing has actually been done. “We would like to see them implemented,” said McKeon, adding that this should happen “immediately.”

At meetings of other municipal boards, she said, “we’re being told the holdup is you — the Board of Aldermen.”

McKeon, the mother of three schoolchildren, encouraged aldermen “to get involved and get engaged.”

'No one knows who's in charge'

Parent Carla Bucherati, Long Hill PTA president, said while city officials all seem to agree on what improvements will be made, “I’m not seeing action being taken.”

Bucherati said based on her attendance at various meetings, “no one knows who’s in charge.”

McKeon and Bucherati were among five speakers to ask about the status of school security enhancements at the Jan. 10 aldermanic meeting.

Communication and coordination

Many of their complaints focused on a lack of communication with the public on the status of the projects, plus what they consider to be poor coordination between city boards.

“We need to be updated [to] ease our anxieties,” said parent Beth Gabriel.

Parent Louis Dagostine III added, “We just need a source to ease our mind.”

Anglace: Parents make valid points

In response, aldermanic President John F. Anglace said the parents were making some valid points. “You have the right to know,” he said.

Anglace said the aldermen also need to be better informed by other municipal entities on what is happening with the three projects.

He then presented a written update on the projects that had been emailed to him by the city Board of Education’s (BOE) finance director, Allan Cameron.

“It is my hope this would reduce the fear that nothing seems to be happening,” Anglace told parents.

Three projects being pursued

The three projects involve installing new surveillance camera systems at the five elementary schools; adding ballistic window film and mesh to combat bullets and other weapons at five schools; and putting in new doors and windows at the three other schools.

Cameron’s Jan. 8 email included a detailed breakdown on the three projects, noting that one project has gone out to bid, another should be publicly advertised soon, and the third could be ready for bidding in a few months.

During his remarks, Anglace also made references to an update from the city Public Improvement Building Committee, which is overseeing some of the work.

He said the goal is to “get as much work done as quickly as possible,” but stressed the city charter requires that certain steps be followed.

Communicating with the public

Anglace suggested the BOE designate a person to act as communications coordinator for the projects, using the city and school system websites to help inform the public on progress being made.

He also said meetings could take place with school PTAs to provide updates.

Anglace said he thinks taking these actions will improve the situation. “We’re coming out of the dark,” he said.

Mayor: 'It’s very doable'

Mayor Mark Lauretti, who was not at the Board of Aldermen meeting, said he’s also frustrated at the lack of progress.

Lauretti said solicitations were done as long as five years ago to upgrade doors and windows at some schools, but “there’s nobody following that.”

He said it’s likely this work will be done during the summer. “It’s very doable,” he said.

Lauretti liked the idea of having a BOE communications coordinator for the projects.