Education

Berkeley Heights Board of Education Reorganizes for New Year; School Security Discussion Tops Agenda

School board members Mary Ann Walsh and Doug Reinstein are sworn into new three-year terms on the Board of Education by Board Secretary and Business Administrator Donna Felezzola at the board’s Jan. 3 reorganization meeting. Credits: Deb Dawson
Dr. Gerard Crisonino is the new vice president of the Berkeley Heights Board of Education. Credits: Deb Dawson
Helen Kirsch is the new president of the Berkeley Heights Board of Education. Credits: Deb Dawson

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The new Board of Education president for the 2013-2014 school year is Helen Kirsch. She was elected unanimously at the school board’s Thursday, Jan. 3 reorganization meeting. Former president John Sincaglia nominated her, saying he had served 20 months which was close enough to his goal of two years. The four-month shortage is due to the change in school board election dates to coincide with the general
election in November.

The new board vice president is Dr. Gerard Crisonino. He was nominated by board member Mary Ann Walsh. Board member Paul Beisser nominated Doug Reinstein. The vote was 5 to 2 with both men voting for themselves.

Both Walsh and Reinstein, who were re-elected in November, were sworn into new three-year terms on the board. Of the 6,750 votes cast, Walsh received 2,910 and Reinstein received 2,235.

During her report, Superintendent Judith Rattner spoke about school security in the wake of Sandy Hook. She noted these measures were in effect prior to the tragedy.

“Currently we have a Crisis Team chaired by Ms. (Patricia) Qualshie that meets every six weeks to review security measures,” she said, noting police are a part of that team and very cooperative. “We are constantly making changes to the security plan and presenting them to the state, sharing them with the Police Department.”

She said an officer was placed at Mary Kay McMillin School the night of the shooting and police are always present at concerts and games.

People are required to request access into buildings and there are cameras set up to enable staff to see the entrances and various other spots in the schools. Staff members check exterior doors to insure they are secure. Placement of the cameras is being reassessed, the superintendent said.

The district is also investigating sensors that would notify the office if a door is ajar.

All staff have I.D. cards, including substitute teachers.

Delivery people are required to check into the office and fill out a form. This practice is being reinforced in the wake of Sandy Hook, she said.

“We’ve had monthly security drills for a long time,” said Rattner. “Police are invited to observe and advise.”

She noted the police department comes at least twice a year and “takes over” a building. An active shooter drill was conducted at William Woodruff School in December.

District staff are taking a new look at security for children who walk to school. Rattner said this was done a couple of years ago and a video was made.

Rattner is meeting on Friday, Jan. 4 with the county prosecutor and chiefs of police of all of the Police Departments in Union County. She submitted a request prior to the meeting asking the group to “consider moving elections out of school buildings from this point forward.” As of now, she said all of the schools in Berkeley Heights except Thomas P. Hughes School are used as polling places. Rattner said the decision will have to be made by
the county Board of Elections.

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