WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – A month after the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., school safety was a major topic at the first public White Plains Board of Education meeting since the incident.
“We have long taken security very seriously here,” said Superintendent Chris Clouet. “We have among school districts, I think, the best sets of plans that we constantly review and update. We work very closely in doing that updating with the police department.”
However, there will be upgrades made, most of which Clouet could not delve into due to security purposes.
“We have a lot of things we are going to be upgrading, including making sure that all cameras are working, making sure that we have single point of entry at our schools,” he said. “This is a constant work in progress, but I tell you that we are absolutely committed to it and we do not take it lightly.”
Just three days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Clouet met with school administrators to discuss “how they would handle things.”
“We got a lot of compliments from parents,” said Clouet. “A lot of principals got calls after the fact, several days later, saying they really appreciated how schools handled the situation. I met with social workers and psychologists to talk about how we would make sure we were ready for kids and also ready for staff.”
Later that week, Clouet said he also met with Mayor Thomas Roach and Police Commissioner David Chong with the latter saying “he was absolutely steadfast in his support of our set of plans.”
Board Vice President Charlie Norris thanked the “professional faculty and staff” in light of the “stress and strain” on them at the beginning of the meeting.
School safety consultant Tom Connelly echoed Clouet and Norris’ sentiments as he discussed the security of the White Plains School District.
“In your school district, you have many more assets than you have deficits – that’s something to be proud of,” said Connelly, who has worked for the district since 1999. “Each school in your district has a comprehensive, updated school safety plan. Each school has a trained crisis response team.”
He lauded the district for having had school safety teams since 1999 in addition to training new members each year and being responsive to any changes.
“When I make a recommendation, they take it seriously and they act on it in most cases,” he said. “I told the crisis team that yes, there are things that we’re going to have to change. Newtown has changed a lot of things, but you’ve got a lot to be proud of."