RANDOLPH, NJ - Principals from the six Randolph schools updated the Board of Education on security measures currently in place on the campuses at the recent public meeting. This included the common themes and concerns expressed during the parent forum on Feb. 28 which was held in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Most of the current school security practices were put in place after the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. “A lot has changed in the last two decades regarding school security and a lot has changed in Randolph,” said Superintendent Jenn Fano.
Michelle Telischak, principal of Fernbrook Elementary, detailed the feedback from parents, including positive comments on the forum itself. However, many parents see a need for increased security personnel and Ram Guards.
“There were also parents saying we still want to make sure that we’re showing families that it’s a safe place, a comfortable place for elementary students,” Telischak said.
In the Feb. 28 meeting, parents also focused on increasing the number of mental health professionals on staff to provide support and identify struggling students, Telischak reported. The team assured parents they will hold more security meetings going forward “providing parents an opportunity to give feedback.”
“It was truly incredible… to see hundreds of our parents come out all for the same goal: to increase the safety and security of our students and our staff,” said Randolph High School Principal Debbie Iosso. “There is unfortunately a new standard of care when it comes to school security.”
Board members agreed that security is an everyday job. "We need everybody to be part of a culture change that says, 'I want to be responsible for being in a safe and secure place,'" said Board Vice President Joe Faranetta, referencing propping the doors open for certain activities. "It's going to feel inconvenient... We've got to be vigilant."
Iosso gave an overview of the ALICE training teachers receive and determines the active shooter drills practiced in all buildings. ALICE was developed after the Columbine shooting, and the acronym stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.
ALICE provides an option-based system and training for teachers to use their common sense in an intruder situation. Through monthly drills, the teachers have developed their responses to different scenarios. Ironia Principal David Kricheff explained, “That’s the best thing about ALICE, is you need to use your senses, think about what’s best in that situation, and you need to act based on that.”
Harry Ruiz, Director of Security for the district, updated the board on his security team and their training in de-escalating an emergency situation. In the everyday interactions with students, these security officers show compassion and build relationships, so students feels comfortable approaching them with security issues they see.
“We are very fortunate to have six security staff members… who collectively have served 117 years in law enforcement,” Fano said. “We are also fortunate to have a police department that works collaboratively with our schools and maintains a presence in our buildings and at school events.”
Randolph Middle School Principal Dennis Copeland detailed the role of the mental health professionals in the school to assist with student screening. They look for two things-- will the student harm themselves or harm others -- and recommend additional, outside therapy to the parents.
“Is there more to do? Yes, there is.” Copeland concluded. “Can we do better? Absolutely, and that’s why we’ve been working together… and we look to have further enhancements to the physical structures of our buildings and the human resource.”