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Superintendent's Message on School Security

In the days since the horrendous events in Florida the Oneonta City School District has been hard at work to assess our readiness to deal with issues that threaten the safety of our schools. We have convened our District Safety Committee and I am writing to give you an update of our current and future status. This is a long standing committee that serves to advise my office of ways that we can assure the safety of our schools. We focus on the variety of concerns that face schools everywhere, like Fire Safety, Weather Responsiveness and active threats by people against our schools. We have an excellent relationship with our Law Enforcement partners from many jurisdictions and we work together to keep our plans current and to add tactical methods to our practices that come from the ongoing training that our partners receive. We conduct drills that practice our response and open our buildings to allow our law Enforcement partners to practice their tactics and help them assure rapid response.

Another aspect of our Safety Planning is to build security into the physical spaces that we occupy in our buildings. In our current Capital Project we have designed increased coverage by security cameras and we intend to harden the entrances and perimeters of our buildings to create secure barriers. We have made some changes to our Arrival and Departure Protocols based on good advice that we’ve gotten from our partners and parents. 

Internally, we feel strongly that we need to speak with our students and to help them be a part of our safety planning so they feel confident that there are caring adults available to them. Each of our buildings has a School Crisis Committee run by our Principals and the district has been committed to keeping School Counselors, School Psychologists and Community partnerships that provide School Social Workers available to our staff, families and students. We do this to assure that any student or family in crisis has the support of the Oneonta City School District and that resources are available.

It is from this multi-tiered approach that we look at our practices and protocols and feel that we’ve come a long way toward providing safe and secure school days. We are however, not satisfied and feel a need to continue to work and listen so that what we do balances the need to be safe with the ability to move around freely in our district in pursuit of the best education possible.

I have just returned from Albany where my colleagues and I spoke directly with our elected officials to reinforce our insistence that schools be provided the resources needed to keep all of the capacity that we already have. It was our goal to push beyond that and ask that our legislators work to allow us to move forward toward greater security in the implementation of both Capital and Personnel Resource plans.

As I am sure you can tell, this is a dynamic situation and it has been on our minds every day, for years. Recent events have caused us to take a renewed look at our own practices. The quality of our plans and partnerships can attest to the fact that we maintain a focus on security but we are unwilling to sit still and be complacent in any way. We’re grateful for the support of our community and pledge to continue to work on your behalf.