School Safety Still Issue at Montville Board of Ed; Soccer Coach Re-Hired

Student liaison to the Board of Education Daniel Lee ©2018 TAPinto Montville Credits: Melissa Benno
Kevin Brown in 2017 at the Montville Hall of Fame dinner ©2018 TAPinto Montville Credits: Melissa Benno
Board of Ed President Charles Grau in January ©2018 TAPinto Montville Credits: Melissa Benno
District Administrator Katine Slunt in Dec. 2017 ©2018 TAPinto Montville Credits: Melissa Benno
Superintendent of Schools René Rovtar ©2018 TAPinto Montville Credits: Melissa Benno

MONTVILLE, NJ – School safety is still foremost on the mind of parents, students and board members as the various groups spoke about the topic at the March 6 Montville Township Public Schools Board of Education meeting.

High school senior and student liaison to the board Daniel Lee spoke first. He said he had debated the pros and cons of a school resource officer (SRO) in the school district and felt it would be an excellent addition, but he believed a single SRO would be insufficient, to the extent that “one SRO would have the same effect as no SRO.”

“An SRO is good to a certain extent, but they are not the answer to our security situation,” Lee said. “At best they would be a Band-Aid solution to a systemic issue that we have in our schools.”

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Lee suggested student ID cards for access to schools and bullet-resistant windows and glass, although he admitted the cost would be high. He thanked the board for acting in the best interests of the students.

Jack Motherway, the second student liaison to the board of education, said Lee’s opinions don’t reflect the entire school body, but they mirror the feelings of a significant amount of the students, and he appreciated Lee for speaking. He had spoken about school safety at the Feb. 20 meeting.

Board President Charles Grau stated that board members met with members of the township committee and township administration directly before the board of education meeting regarding the hiring of an SRO and, “We believe we’ve come up with a plan, which the mayor will review with the township committee next week to see if they are in agreement. I reviewed it with my colleagues tonight and we are in agreement, however, it would be premature to do anything at this time. I told the mayor we would be meeting on the 20th; if he can share anything by then, or you can go to the township committee meeting.

“The police have shared they will be visiting the elementary schools on a regular basis, and we’ll have more information after the township committee meeting on March 13 or the board of ed meeting on the 20th,” Grau concluded.

Terry Becker said during public portion she was disappointed that there was no action plan to share with the public “since this is not a new issue.”

“It’s been talked about since Paul Fried was superintendent, and not followed up on, and I’m disappointed that the Safety and Security Committee has not had a meeting,” she said.

Grau said the board had pushed for the SRO but the town had refused in 2016 and he was surprised the board was “getting this far compared to two years ago.”

Becker also said she wished more student assistance counselors could be hired considering the board’s resolution for “Gun Control and Mental Health Services to Protect Our Youth,” (see complete text at the end of this article) since there are two in the high school to help 1,100 students and only one at Lazar. She further stated that the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide had offered services approximately one year ago but the proposal had gone no further and she wondered why.

Other Board of Education Meeting Discussions

District Administrator Katine Slunt presented a preliminary budget, stating that state aid figures would not be available until March 15. A more detailed budget will be presented at the March 20 meeting. She said the budget is flat and almost identical to last year’s.

After a heated Feb. 6 board of ed meeting at which many students and parents came to express their anger and frustration at the rumored firing of soccer coach Kevin Brown, his contract was approved for fall 2018. Mike Weinstein spoke during public portion and said he did not feel this was the right decision. He said many were fearful to speak out against Brown.

“People have to earn the right to treat our children with respect above all,” he told the board.

During the vote, David Modrak said he voted yes but “with reservations” to Brown’s position.

Superintendent of Schools René Rovtar complimented the high school’s production of Shrek and said it was unbelievable that it was produced by high school-level students.

Special education teacher Janis Amodeo will be retiring, effective Jul. 1, and Lazar science teacher Gabriel Maffei has resigned, effective March 7. Matthew Huppert will take over his class. Alexandar Pena, son of Board Member Dr. Karen Cortellino, was hired to be a substitute teacher.

Resolution for Gun Control and Mental Health Services to Protect Our Youth

The complete resolution adopted by the board reads:

BE IT RESOLVED that the Montville Township Board of Education, upon the recommendation of the Superintendent, hereby approves the following resolution regarding gun control and mental health services to protect our youth:

 WHEREAS,   A prerequisite to student growth, learning, well-being and success is a safe and secure school environment; and

 WHEREAS,   Children throughout the nation have been negatively affected directly and indirectly by violent crimes involving firearms; and

 WHEREAS,   Military-style assault weapons and large-volume ammunition magazines were used in recent mass killings in schools and other locations; and

 WHEREAS,   Profiles of school shooters illustrate the need for a thorough examination of the care and treatment of the mentally ill and for effective intervention;

 WHEREAS,   The New Jersey School Boards Association’s 2014 study, What Makes Schools Safe?, cited reports by state and federal agencies, which found that mental health intervention did not take place prior to three-quarters of school shootings; and

 WHEREAS,   New Jersey has among the strongest gun control laws in the nation and the lowest incidence of gun-related deaths, but protective laws are not in place in many other states or at the federal level; and

 WHEREAS,   The tragedies of Parkland, Florida, of Newtown, Connecticut, of Columbine High School in Colorado, emphasize the need to address access to firearms and the delivery of mental health services. Now, therefore, be it

 RESOLVED,  That the Montville Township Board of Education, in the County of Morris, State of New Jersey, urges President Trump and Congress to identify and implement meaningful action to address access to and ownership of military-style assault weapons and ammunition, the delivery of mental health services, and financial support to ensure a safe and secure school climate; and be it further

 RESOLVED,  That the Montville Township Board of Education supports Governor Murphy’s call to end the “epidemic of gun violence that plagues far too many of our communities” and supports enhancements to state law that will provide protection for our schools and communities; and be it further

 RESOLVED,  That a copy of this resolution be sent to President Trump, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, U.S. Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, Governor Murphy, State Senator Joseph Pennacchio, Assembly Representative Jay Webber, Assembly Representative Betty Lou DeCroce, the New Jersey School Boards Association, and the National School Boards Association.

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