Columbine and 9/11: Two events that changed the world. In response, businesses, families, communities, and schools began to realize the importance of emergency management and readiness plans. The Metuchen Board of Education is no exception. Administrators have attended dozens of workshops for information on responding to safety concerns. The district has school safety plans and a formal Board of Education approved Memorandum of Understanding between the police department and school administration. Last May, Board president Terry Kohl announced the formation of a Safe Schools Task Force. Bob Gugliara, "Mr. G.," principal of
Last month, the S-CSS issued a survey to all parents of school-aged children asking for feedback on the safety procedures they wanted more information on, as well as any safety-related concerns they might have. According to Mr. G. "There is a routine initiative in our district to provide the community with an understanding of the health and safety concerns that are being addressed in our schools. The S-CSS met over the summer and determined it was important to first learn what was important to parents, and to get a better understanding of parental concerns and questions." The end result will be the distribution of information on safety protocol that covers everything parents want to know.
"Each time there is a safety-related event that occurs anywhere in the country, protocol is either modified or confirmed." explained Mr. G. For example, evacuation sites were changed when the state issued a directive advising on location choices. And, when a local district had an emergency closure due to a water main break, their busing evacuation routine was found deficient and amended.
The police department has been a constant partner in district safety plans, providing safety assessments and aiding in plan development and execution. A goal of the S-CSS is to bring the community into the loop through a plan of accurate and efficient communication. "Our goal is not to develop procedure but we will certainly make any suggestions we believe are necessary" said Mr. G.
The committee wants to ensure students are safe but is also committed to maintaining an environment that is happy. A school in
There are four arms to the School Safety Task Force: Superintendent Terri Sinatra and Board of Education president Terry Kohl head the Steering Committee; the Mental Health Committee is co-chaired by Edgar principal Kathy Glutz and Rose deVries; and the Facility Safety Committee is co-chaired by MHS principal John Novak and BOE member Ben Small. Each committee is also staffed by parent volunteers.
Mr. G. and the S-CSS have just begun the process of reading the parent survey forms, which were due back to school by November 26th. Information will be sorted, tallied, and then a plan for communicating information will be developed. They are hoping to be prepared with documentation and a presentation by Spring.
Early indicators are that about 25% of school families responded to the survey, with the majority of respondents being parents of younger children. According to Mr. G., "The response to the survey has been a confirmation that school safety is a constant concern and that parents seem to feel confident their kids are safe."