Buchanan, Webster talk school security
In a letter to the parents, guardians and communities of students at Boothbay Region elementary and high schools, Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98 Interim Superintendent Bob Webster said administrators and staff have been hard at work for weeks examining security measures.
“Recent tragic events in Florida have sadly reminded us all of the need for constant vigilance in the effort to provide safe schools for our children,” Webster wrote.
Webster and Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor CSD Board of Trustees Chair Chris Buchanan sat down for an interview following the trustees’ March 7 meeting. The two talked about safety and security at the schools.
“I felt that, as trustees, we do buildings and grounds, so security falls under our umbrella,” said Buchanan. “We’ve been really trying to boost our time for the last three weeks on this issue.”
“Chris has,” said Webster. “He’s been practically living on the campus up here with Dave Benner.”
Buchanan said the security system is excellent, but has a few shortcomings the Board of Trustees intends to improve on in the coming weeks.
“We’re starting to implement some changes right now – actively trying and not just ignoring the situation,” said Buchanan.
The Board of Trustees is implementing funds for Larry Brown’s position as resource officer as well as for the Boothbay Harbor Police Department in general.
“We’re going to be paying the town of Boothbay Harbor for campus security for a figure of $40,000 a year. That will basically go to the town, to their general fund to help offset any man hours spent at school.”
The board also plans to add a utility position under Facilities and Transportation Director Dave Benner. The person will help primarily with school security throughout the school day.
Buchanan said the more immediate plans include new camera systems to monitor the campus; and enforcement of the policy of having visitors check in with the front desk. The policy has been loosely enforced in past years, said Buchanan.
Buchanan said the new employee will cost around $44,000 in salary and benefits. The added costs will appear as a new budget item, “campus security.”
“Bob Hasch has been meeting with faculty groups to give them information on how they do what they do in an emergency. He met with the administration team, Chris and Dave, and students,” Webster added.
At the last Board of Trustees meeting, Police Chief Bob Hasch said his officers do a yearly training exercise on response to school incidents. Hasch cited the series of bomb threats in 2010 as a catalyst for thorough training concerning larger events. Brown said he has been gathering concerns and ideas from staff and students which have led to his “cop on the spot” routine that exhibits his ability to respond between the two schools. Benner said swipe cards have been created for all officers to gain immediate access to the schools.
“If parents see things of concern, we’d really love to hear it,” said Buchanan. “The parents see it from a different set of eyes than we do.”
The board voted unanimously to approve additional funds of $40,000 toward Boothbay Harbor for campus security and $44,000 for the new employee. Members decided to postpone practice field and Sherman baseball field renovations, saving $90,700 while continuing with fire panel upgrades, roof replacement and security camera additions totaling an estimated $204,400. Considering reserve monies and $25,000 in the library’s current budget, the board also decided to amend the library project, continuing some upgrades and putting off painting and a new carpet for next year. Buchanan also announced there are four applicants to the superintendent position and interviews will begin Monday, March 26.
Most of the security upgrades and changes will take place in the summer and in the longer term with renovations concerning energy efficiency, namely new door systems. However, all measures that can be taken in the short term will be, said Buchanan.
“We just really want the public to know we’re trying our best.”