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Superintendent updates State School Safety Group

Monroe School Superintendent Jack Zamary provided feedback to the legislature's School Safety Working Group on November 27th.  He noted that there are common all-calls in the district schools.  Teachers know the code for their building and would be authorized to call a lockdown, without having to alert and wait for the principal to secure the building.  Zamary says that's one of the things they learned from Sandy Hook.  When it comes to lockdown drills, they found it was overly scary for the younger students.  What Monroe has done is announce at the beginning of a school year that the drill will be held on a specific date.  As the year goes on, they just announce that a drill will be held at some point during the week. 

Monroe added School Resource Officers, but noticed that Newtown added armed School Security Officers.  Zamary says the SROs are funded by Monroe while the SSOs, retired officers, are funded by the schools.  He notes that if they weren't neighboring Newtown, he's not sure if there would have been the momentum to have armed security guards.  When Sandy Hook students moved into the former Chalk Hill School, their bus routes weren't much longer than getting to SHES.

Zamary says they are looking to add a program from Sandy Hook Promise.  Right now, anonymous reporting leads to a number of false reports, or potentially delays in action to reach students who may be involved in risky behavior after hours.  Speak Up has a live operator.  That person can help reduce false reports, can advise the caller of what to do and is available 24-7. 

Monroe Representative JP Sredzinski, whose district also includes part of Newtown, says security features that work for Newtown, won't necessarily work for other towns.  Zamary says some number of mental health, psychologist, guidance counselors or social workers are one area that should be required statewide.

Zamary says professional development time is hard to find but is critical.  He noted that as more trainings are mandated by the state, sometimes other things have to come out.  He suggested looking at all of the training programs to see what might be outdated and could be removed.  The Working Group asked for a list of those programs from Superintendents.

One member of the group asked about some districts requiring phones be put away during class time or kept in lockers, but concerned parents not being on board.  An argument for not having the cell phones out from the Working Group was that students need to be focused on teacher instruction, who need phones silenced.  Zamary says cell towers were overwhelmed on 12-14, portable cell towers were even brought in. 

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Rich Valdes

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