By 10 p.m. Thursday—with parents having to work the next morning—the George M. Davis Jr. Elementary School auditorium was still nearly filled to capacity with parents and teachers, who gathered since 7:30 p.m. to discuss security in the school.
That’s how important this topic has become in the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
“The purpose of this meeting is to provide as much information as possible concerning the safety in Davis School,” said William Harrrell, principal of Davis Elementary School.
Many parents criticized Davis Elementary School for leaving the doors unlocked, giving anyone access to the building.
“There are doors unlocked all the time,” said Randy Friedberg, who has two children in the school.
“Getting in and out of these buildings [referring to the New Rochelle public schools] are too easy, and an unlocked door can be an invitation to any type of predator,” said Betsy Kravitz, who has one child in Davis Elementary and two others in the New Rochelle public schools.
Kravitz also said she fears anyone can take her child at dismissal, calling the dismissal procedure a “free for all.”
“I picked up my nephew, who runs to me willingly, but no one knows who I am,” Kravitz said. “I’m not the parent, I don’t have written permission, but he was dismissed right to me.”
But some felt the security problems run deeper than unlocked doors or a free-for-all dismissal procedure.
A link to the entire Davis Elementary School safety and procedure manual, which includes sensitive information such as evacuation spots during an emergency, was included in an email that was sent out to parents notifying them about the Jan. 3 meeting.
This contradicts section 155.17 of the SAVE law, which states, “only a summary of each building-level emergency response plan must be made available for public comment…The full building-level emergency response plans shall be confidential and shall not be subject to disclosure…”
After hearing about these security breaches, Principal Harrell acknowledged there was still a long way to go and changes to be made.
New Rochelle Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak said the district is looking to hire an outside security firm to review all of the New Rochelle schools.
In the meantime, some of those changes Harrell referred to have already taken place, said Organisciak.
Davis Elementary School was one of the New Rochelle public schools that received a grant to install a buzz-in system, which requires all visitors to be buzzed in by the main office, where someone can see via a monitor who is trying to enter the school.
A second change would be a keyless entry, which will allow only teachers to enter through select doors by swiping a card, said Organisciak. But he did not give a definitive timetable as to when that technology would be installed at Davis Elementary School.
Chris Daniello, a parent of a Davis Elementary student, approached Principal Harrell yesterday and volunteered his knowledge as a former military man and current New York City police officer to bolster security and make the school a safer place. He will assist Director of Security Bruce Daniele moving forward.