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Safety Remains Top Focus for Bedford Central

School board members adopt resolution calling for legislative action, while an update is given from a hired consultant.

Members of the Bedford Central School District's Board of Education took on multiple security related items at their recent meeting.

When they met on Feb. 6, board members voted to adopt a policy resolution that had text dervied from a letter from the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association. Items in the resolution include calling for security costs that are not provided aid to be exempt from the annual propery tax levy cap, restoring funding for school resource officers and providing enough funding for mental health. The letter is addressed to both state and federal lawmakers.

The board decided not to go along with one item, however: the original letter calls for congress to pass tougher gun control laws, following adoption of New York State's SAFE Act.

The decision not to adopt the gun control sentence included in the model letter came because some board members were concerned about wading into the issue.

“I think this letter probably expresses personally, how I feel, for sure,” said board member Andrew Bracco. However, he added that gun control is “a very sensitive political topic" and wasn't sure if the board should get involved.

Board member Suzanne Grant suggested “soft peddling” gun control in the letter because of the topic.

Some members were fine with including the sentence.

Board member Erika Long said it was a “school-specific letter, which I think is entirely appropriate.”

Her colleague, Lee Goldstein, agreed.

“I mean, we're elected officials, I think it's within our purview to take a political position.”

However, the board agreed on omission, and Grant suggested the letter state that federal leaders should "act swiftly to address gun violence."

Long was content with removing the gun control reference, feeling that someone who may disagree with that topic may be lost as a person to engage on the other issues in the letter.

The school board approved the modified letter in a 7-0 vote. Board President Susan Wollin, who voted in favor of the modification, is also vice president of the leadership for the regional school boards group responsible for the original letter.

Security Consultant Gives Status Update

A member of the security consulting company retained last month by the district stopped by the board meeting to give a status update, according to a video of the meeting.

Larry Eidelman, a managing partner for Altaris Consulting Group, said that they have been through every school in the district except for the Hillside program, as part of its security audit. 

“We come into the school and we basically look at everything that has to do with safety and emergency management and emergency planning. We review policies and protocols, we look at your procedures.”

Eidelman praised the district for how security was handled that week after a bomb threat was discovered at Fox Lane Middle School, saying it was "handled beautifully.”

Eidelman said that there will be several presentations for the district, with a "conceptual agreement" coming for recommended safety measures. That agreement would be followed by a report, which he said can be used for “guidance and steering and planning.”

Meanwhile, Eidelman gave support for having standardized procedures across the district's various schools, citing muscle memory gained by students the longer they are in the district. However, he also left open having each school deviate from the district-based plan, deciding things based on its special needs or to adopt more restrictive measures.

Eidelman's background includes having been a 37-year member of a fire department, including as president of its board, and as captain of an ambulance corps. His firm focuses particularly on K-12 school safety, while also offering some services to universities and businesses.

Tom Auchterlonie February 15, 2013 at 02:14 AM
The district has since sent out a copy of the modified letter that was approved. I have attached it to this story as a PDF file.

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