WESTFIELD, NJ — Mayor Shelley Brindle and Board of Education President Gretchan Ohlig issued a joint statement Friday afternoon regarding school security:
“In the wake of the tragic events in Parkland, Florida last week, we wanted to take this opportunity to let the community know that the town and school administrations have been in steady communication about school safety,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, the discussions prompted by school shootings are not a new event. As public officials, and more importantly as parents of kids in our public schools, we share your worry and concerns.
“To provide some reassurance, we want to make sure you are aware of many of the security procedures that have been put in place over the past six years. Working closely with StoneGate Associates, experts in safety management systems in schools and health facilities, the Westfield Public School District has invested over $6 million in implementing and enhancing safety measures in our 10 school buildings to keep our students and staff safe. All buildings are equipped with security cameras, intercom systems and panic alarms as well as updated fire alarms and public address systems. Additionally, the district’s Emergency Management Committee and StoneGate meet regularly throughout the year to train staff and continuously review existing safety measures.
“In the past week, StoneGate, the Emergency Management Committee, the Westfield Police Department, building principals and district administrators have met a number of times. Mayor Shelley Brindle and Town Administrator Jim Gildea also met with the school district’s Superintendent Margaret Dolan and Business Administrator Dana Sullivan along with Gretchan Ohlig and Peggy Oster, the president and vice president of the board of education, to talk about the continued critical coordination between schools, the town and the police, and to establish enhanced communication protocols between the town council and the board of education.
“School safety is a top priority for all of our school district and town officials. We recognize that it is an ongoing process and are committed to consistently working together to improve and supplement our practices. Every effort is made to communicate with parents of students located at a school in the midst of a crisis as soon as verified information is made available. At times, best practices limit the security details that can be shared, which may seem frustrating in times of crisis but rest assured it is done for the safety of our students.
“In order to give the public the opportunity to hear firsthand about existing school safety measures, we have invited StoneGate to make a presentation at the board of education meeting on Tuesday, February 27. The meeting will be held at 302 Elm Street and begins at 7:30 p.m. The meeting also will be recorded and posted to the school district website for those unable to be there.
“As always, we welcome your input and feedback.