Schools Chief Seeks Security Director

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securityVerona public schools Superintendent Steven A. Forte is seeking support from the Board of Education to hire a director of security.

Forte said his plan was developed in concert with Verona Police Department Chief Doug Huber. The two men have written a job description for the position, the cost of which would be shared with another district. Verona’s annual cost would be between $20,000 and $25,000, with the balance, roughly 60% of the total cost, to be borne by the other district. Forte did not name the district, but characterized it has “high-performing”.

Forte said that the cost of the position would be roughly comparable to that of a security audit of the district’s six school buildings. The person hired for the position would conduct that audit and see to its implementation, rather than hand that off to the district’s existing administrative personnel. Forte said that while the position’s title would be director of security, the job would not be a certificate position like other administrators. Forte stressed that the position was not a security guard.

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The plan drew support and reservations from board members. “I have concerns,” said Glenn Elliott, “and not because security is not a priority.” Elliott expressed concern about “layering on another administrative expense” and said he would prefer that the district considers a school resource officer, a position used by other districts. “I feel that we can implement these things with our current framework of administration,” Elliott added.

But Dawn DuBois, who was elected to the board in 2011, called it a “great first step.” “It is great to say we can put the burden on existing administrators,” DuBois said, “but something else would get lost in the mix.”

“I want a guy to coach us and lead us to the next step,” DuBois added. “I am not reacting to headlines. I brought this up in September to Buildings & Grounds. I don’t understand why this is not a bigger priority.”

The plan also had support from one member of the audience. Anthony Gardner, the director of the New Jersey State Museum and a new addition to the Verona Public Library’s Board of Trustees, said, “I think that what the superintendent is proposing is a common sense first step.” He said that preparedness was key to saving lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks: Morgan Stanley had a disaster preparedness plan for its 25,000 employees in the South Tower of the World Trade Center and only six died, Gardner noted. Gardner is the parent of three elementary school children in Verona.

But it could take more than priority to make the new position a reality. BOE President John Quattrocchi noted that the board already needs to cut roughly $700,000 from the 2013-2014 budget to stay within the state-mandated 2% cap.

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Forte said he would present a job description to the board for its approval at the next meeting, which is scheduled for February 26. If approved, Forte would seek a commitment from the potential partnering district and seek candidates for the position. “I want to be able to say that, when our schools are in session they are secure,” Forte said.

In other security news, Elliott said that a purchase order has been signed for five new exterior school doors. The doors have to be built to order, so Elliott said that they would be installed sometime after the middle of April.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

3 COMMENTS

  1. Just curious, have there been any incidents recently in our schools that would require a director of security? Has anyone been expelled for having a knife in school? Has anyone been removed from school due to threats in a notebook. A phone found with pictures of guns & drugs? After the Newtown shooting, the admin seemed to have everything in control and the new rules implemented perfectly. I’m all for student safety, but I want to know why We are creating a new position.

  2. Well if the Superintendent and the Business Administrator take a pay cut of $10k each then we can afford it. Why not ask them?

  3. I’m not convinced that a Security Director is the answer. If we are working with the VPD to ensure that our drills are preparing the students and staff, why do we need another salaried position?
    There are definitely better ways to spend that money.
    “The right question to ask is not simply about student safety. We must address the overwhelming wellbeing of our children and the climate and culture of the schools in which they spend 180 school days each year for so many years. I do not want to minimize the events in Newtown but children are most affected by what happens around them every day.” “A nurturing and positive school culture and climate provides the conditions that best allow schools to carry out their mission of educating children for success in school and life and preparing them to be responsible, productive, caring adult participants in their families, workplaces, and civic contexts.” (Edutopia – February 5, 2013)

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