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Security Adjustments at Placentino, Miller and Adams Schools

by Superintendent Brad Jackson
December 20, 2012

This has been a difficult week for all of us.  Our priority at the beginning of the week was to ensure that we had supports in place for students and staff members who were dealing with the emotional impact of the tragedy in nearby Newtown Connecticut.

I am pleased to report that, while some students and staff members did require support in the initial aftermath, our schools are functioning at near-normal levels, with students and staff members focusing on completing their academic work before our upcoming 10-day Winter Break.

At the same time, we have begun a comprehensive review of our security procedures at our schools.  Obviously, that review has initially focused on our long-standing practice of leaving our front doors unlocked and requiring visitors to sign in at our offices.  Clearly, this procedure must and will be changed.

Unfortunately, changing these procedures is significantly more complicated than simply “locking the front door.”    Whether it be a parent coming in to drop off a forgotten lunch, or pick up a sick child, or dozens of other valid reasons for someone to enter a school,  each of our schools has scores of legitimate visitors coming virtually each hour of every school day. Moreover, the physical design of our schools at-best offers limited visibility to our front doors from our main offices. In order to continue to allow reasonable access to our schools for those who have a compelling reason to visit, we have decided to install an electronic buzzer system at Placentino, Miller and Adams.  This buzzer system will be monitored by a receptionist who will be seated in the lobby of the school and authorize entry and direct visitors who have a legitimate reason to be in the school.

We are targeting early-January 2013 to complete this enhancement.  Buzzer systems have already been researched and ordered (in compliance with Massachusetts’ procurement laws) and we are awaiting confirmation of a delivery date.  Once delivered, if we can not get timely installation from the vendor, we will install it ourselves.  Every effort is being made to expedite this process.  Independent of the schedule to install a buzzer system, the front doors of the Placentino, Miller and Adams Schools will be locked after morning arrival effective January 2, 2013.  Each of these three schools will have a receptionist seated in the lobby to confirm visitor identity and ensure that visitors have a legitimate reason for being let into the building.   Anyone attempting to bypass this system will be subject to arrest.  

While there is clearly no price-too-high to pay for student and staff safety, there is, however, a monetary cost to these improvements.  Because this expense was not anticipated when the FY13 budget was developed and approved, I have ordered a budget freeze of all non-essential spending until I am sure that we will not overspend the funds allocated to the School Department.

Changes beyond this initial enhancement are also being studied.  In addition, a broader discussion regarding the implications and effectiveness of installing a buzzer system at Holliston High School needs to take place.  HHS’ traffic pattern is significantly different because of the unique features of our building layout, our current practice of allowing senior privileges and the vast number of students who are leaving and returning to school to attend off-site internships, etc.  

Less than one week ago, virtually no one knew that the Town of Newtown Connecticut even existed.  In the past six days, we have been stunned by an unspeakable tragedy, developed and implemented a comprehensive plan to support the emotional needs of Holliston’s students and staff as they processed the meaning of that tragedy, and developed and are implementing a plan to improve the physical security of our buildings.  Along the way, we have strengthened the already-unbreakable bond between the schools, Police, Fire and Youth and Family Services that is the core of our violence-prevention efforts.   I am proud of our response to this tragedy and am thankful to have a supportive community and deeply-engaged School Committee driving our efforts to keep our schools safe places for students and staff alike.

Please accept my best wishes for a Happy Holiday season.

Regards,

Bradford L. Jackson, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
 

 

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Comments (17)

"Ben" thank you for responding to her that way. My thoughts exactly. She is so wrong. I could say so much more but will hold that all in.

- Placentino parent | 12/23/12 5:30 PM

Parent.. .your response is NOT TRUE.. Dr Jackson stated in his first letter to this paper that he would "wait until the dust settled" and then respond, but until then he would not lock the doors.. it was not until most of us "caring" parents wrote in about how upset we were with his response. did he take action ..In his second letter he then stated that he would respond and do something. . You are wrong with your information and sorry you feel that some entitled. no we just care a little more and wanted the right action taken sooner rather than later.. further more you have no idea who wrote the pieces that were submitted so how do you know they are "entitled" you are misinformed and misguided...

- ben | 12/22/12 4:29 PM

I am glad Dr. Jackson responded the way he did this week and think a buzzer system and tighter security is a great idea. However, since I was at the school early in the week and witnessed the front doors being measured (I assume for the security system) I also want to point out that Dr. Jacson did not wait until Mr. Harper's letter or the nasty responses from many of my fellow parents to take action. "Placentino Parent" seems to give herself and the other posters credit for Dr. Jackson's actions. As someone who was born and raised in Holliston and chose to keep my family here I can tell you this town has become full of nasty entitled parents who think they run the show. Dr. Jackson.. You are doing the right thing with security..not just for the crazy mad men with guns but for the crazy entitled moms who think they can come and go from the schools as they please. I have volunteered in multiple schools and have seen the madness and the ridiculous reasons some parents stop into the schools for. Not only is this uneccesary but it causes multiple distractions to the secretaries. Some of the parents who have commented on this and the previous post about security are the worst offenders. This is the perfect opportunity to limit the uneccesary interruptions in the school day by parents. I am just as concerned as anyone else about my kids and keeping them safe is my top priority however the comments that I have read this week from other parents make me furious. They are obviously looking for someone to lash out at but really could use a good look in the mirror. Oh..and I hope if Holliston ever is in the terrible situation of someone trying to harm our children, we end up with someone stupid who doesn't realize he can just wait until recess when all our kids pile out into the field to run around.. No buzzer system in place for that...

- Parent | 12/22/12 2:25 PM

Happy to see this swift, comprehensive, and sensible response.

- Adam | 12/21/12 1:22 PM

This will help calm the most fearful of our parents at no appreciable increase in security. Once again the gun nuts have succeeded in eroding our right to free movement and increased irrational fear of the boogeyman. This is policy driven by hysterical media coverage.

- tpartynitwit | 12/21/12 1:08 PM

I personally would like to thank the Harper's for starting this very important dialogue.You and a handful of citizens have prompted Dr Jackson to at least have a reasonable start to protecting our youngest and most valuable gems.I hope this is not the end to protecting our schools, and all measures that are needed are implemented in a reasonable time. Until then I applaud the Harper's for standing up for all of your children. thanks

- ben | 12/20/12 7:51 PM

Dear Dr. Jackson

Thank you for enhancing security at our schools. The steps you are taking appear reasoned and appropriate.

While there are no guarantees, these common sense changes will help protect students, teachers and staff. I know many parents feel greatly relieved.

While we all wish it hadn't come to this, we must deal with a changing world. Let's go forward knowing nothing will quell the loving and spirited environment teachers and administrators have created at our schools.

Leslie and I, and many others, are prepared to do all we can to assist you and others charged with providing school security. Perhaps parent volunteers could be used to assist office staff with monitoring visitors.

We look forward to continued dialogue on these important issues in the year ahead.

Happy holidays,

Jack and Leslie Harper

- Jack Harper | 12/20/12 5:39 PM

I am thankful that Dr. Jackson is taking this approach...a HUGE applause goes out to all of the poster's comments on Holliston Reporter because I feel it was all of our comments that had him make this decision. Had he not, he would've looked real bad!

And (Anon)... why would you stereotype "a little old lady" at the front door? Seriously? You couldn't be more wrong. As for not stopping a bullet...yes, maybe locked doors won't stop a bullet but they may stop a person who may be entering the school for another motive. My cousin's child's school had an incident in which her son's classmate was abducted by his estranged father right out of the hallway as he came in from recess. There are many reasons why to lock doors.

- Placentino Parent | 12/20/12 3:41 PM

sometimes negative response to Dr Jackson's last stament brought positive response.. thank you for seeing what most people in Holliston want, and that is action... Dr, Jackson's response the first time should have been he would lock the doors and install a buzzer system until he could further asses what needs to be done, but by pressure after alot of comments on his first statment he is now reacting.. .thank you..

- ben | 12/20/12 3:37 PM

Thank you Dr. Jackson for responding to the parents concerns and reassessing the security at our schools. I am relieved that you have a plan in place and feel that my children are already more secure.

- Missy | 12/20/12 1:34 PM

The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary was a nightmare no one could prevent with a locked door. Please do not fool yourselves to think for an instant that a locked door next to a glass window will stop a determined gunmen. Spending money to create the illusion of security is nothing more than a waste of resources.

An unarmed civilian in the lobby of each school is not a deterrent or sufficient resource to prevent the events that took place last week in Connecticut.

I do not intend to sound heartless or belittle the efforts that would be required to secure our schools. The task to make our schools safe is monstrous. The idea of a doorbell as a security measure is a joke. People should know that a lock on a door does not stop a bullet. A little old lady greeting people in the lobby does not stop an aggressive person who wants to gain entry into the building.

A real 1st step to this complicated problem would be to post a trained and armed police officer as the greeter at each school lobby.

- Anon | 12/20/12 1:09 PM

Dr. Jackson -

Thank you for addressing this matter. I'm sure this will make staff and parents feel better about the safety of our schools. It is sad that our world has come to this.

- Holliston Parent | 12/20/12 12:19 PM

I worked at a private school and we had a buzzer system. It works well. You might also think about a camera at the main door that would have a monitor in the front office so you know who is coming and going at all times. I commend you on all your work.

- Pat Langley | 12/20/12 12:16 PM

Thank you so much for your timely resolution. I love the idea of having a greeter in the lobby- it's a nice warm way to welcome people into the school, and to monitor the activities and take note of any suspicious behavior as well. Maybe future upgrades to the plan would include a silent alarm button at that desk in case of emergency. Thank you again for your dedication to our town and our students.

- Karen | 12/20/12 11:50 AM

Thank you so much for taking this step in protecting our children.

- Joan GaviniCampbell | 12/20/12 11:30 AM

Thank you!

It is a small step for what I feel could have a huge impact on all of our lives.

- Heather DeLuca | 12/20/12 11:21 AM

Dr. Jackson,

Thank you for quickly assessing this situation with your team and for taking these steps. I'm sure that everyone will be breathing a bit easier. Thanks again.

- Brendan O'Leary | 12/20/12 11:07 AM

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