MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Board of Education meeting began with a moment of silence for the students, administrator, coach and teacher killed in Parkland, Florida.
High school senior and board liaison Jack Motherway read his report to the board and then made a statement to the board regarding the shootings.
“It’s a little disconcerting that these things are happening so much more over time,” he said. “But I hope that just seeing the outcrop of the students and the students all around this time has been different this time, I think. It’s been more vocal. It’s been more loud. I think that’s been reassuring because just seeing these happen so often and nothing really being done in our legislation, I hope that this time will be different. Just judging by how students are reacting and how the kids are reacting in this nation, I would just like to say I hope it’s one of the last times we hear about something like this.
“In concert band, we were doing a piece written just after the Columbine shooting, and just to reflect back, when it happened, it blew everyone’s mind and the world stood still. And since then President Obama has given 12 State of the Union speeches and 16 mass shooting speeches. And it’s just something that blows my mind to hear about.
“Just during Trump’s term of office there have been four or five more. I’m hopeful something will be done by legislation and from the response from the country, that something will change,” he said.
Board of Education President Charles Grau thanked Motherway for his comments and report.
Superintendent of Schools René Rovtar said she has received “some correspondence and phone calls” with parents this week regarding school security.
“I want to reassure people, I think that our schools are very secure and that has come from a variety of sources,” Rovtar said. “Some time ago, the district took advantage of an offer that exists through the county prosecutor’s office. They have a specialist who works through the county, goes through school facilities and works on security. That person came to the district and did a walkthrough of all seven of our facilities and provided us with a very detailed report listing a number of recommendations on how we might improve school security. We have taken action to implement a number of those recommendations that, I think, have created an even more secure environment for our students and staff.
“We continue to evolve in terms of our practices and I think what we have in place right now represents many of the best practices that have been adopted by schools across the state and across the country. We continue to drill our students – that’s a state requirement – so they’re prepared in the unfortunate situation that we would have to react to a situation like they had in Florida. But I did want to reassure parents that it is what I consider my most important responsibility: to provide a safe and secure environment for our students and staff, and it’s something that the administration joins me in – having that commitment, every day, to make our schools as safe as they can be.”
School parent Terry Becker commented at the public portion that she would like the district to reopen talks with the township regarding a school resource officer. The two organizations had been discussing placing a police officer at the high school in 2015 and 2016, but seemed to run into a wall regarding who would pay the police officer’s salary during the summer and other questions that couldn’t be resolved.
Becker said she has told her kids they are safe at school. She said she appreciated security enhancements made by Superintendent Paul Fried, the police department and the safety and security committee.
“But we need to work harder, and now, to harden our soft targets,” she said. “And our schools are certainly soft targets. I think we need to do that while we wait for our nation to sort out all of the issues that seem to lead to these mass shootings.”
Becker said parents have been working for years to have a school resource officer (SRO) placed in the high school, to be shared among all the schools, to no avail, although an officer on the Montville Township Police Department is trained as such.
Becker said the SRO would be a resource for students who are experiencing violence at home or elsewhere, bullying or cyber-bullying, substance abuse issues, or dating violence.
“It doesn’t just keep the ‘bad guy’ from getting into the building,” she said. “It fosters a sense of safety and community among our young people.”
Becker also requested that parents be updated on the security measures that have been enacted that can be disclosed.
Grau said the board has always been in support of an SRO, and have had an officer in the budget “for several years.” Grau said two BOE members usually meet with two township committee members about four times a year, and he will be appointing the BOE members and discussing the issue with the township.
At the Sept. 13, 2016 Montville Township Committee meeting, Mayor Jim Sandham stated “the township does not have the resources to take another officer off of the street [to be an SRO].”
In May of 2017, Patrolman Scott McGowan presented at the Montville Township High School Parent Teacher Committee meeting regarding new active shooter procedures the district is following, which was covered in this article: A.L.I.C.E. A.L.I.C.E. stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate, and according to experts, this procedure increases the chance of survival in the event of an active shooter scenario.
Rovtar said that five snow days have been built into the school calendar and three have been used. However, if the remaining two are not used, they will not be “given back.”
Board Administrator Katine Slunt said the March 6 board meeting will feature the first ’18-’19 budget presentation.
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