In the second of two My View columns that have appeared in the Times in recent days, Superintendent of Schools Richard Safier emphasized that the most important factor in helping students and parents feel safe about their schools is the school environment itself. And he’s absolutely right.
But in the run-up to a Wednesday night public hearing on Gloucester school safety and security (see news story, Page 1), Safier and other local school and city officials have essentially suggested that there’s no need for any security boost — at all. And there are plenty of arguments to suggest that’s not the case.
Yes, Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello has appointed a school liaison for school officials to contact if needed. But Gloucester schools have no traditional resource officers, no day-to-day interaction with police at all. And even before the horrific December shootings at Newtown, Conn.’s, Sandy Hook Elementary School, that should have raised some questions as to whether the schools and city police were missing some golden opportunities to build better relationships among police, students and parents, while providing a better and surer sense of safety and security in the process.
The public hearing, being hosted by the School Committee and scheduled because of a gutsy petition drive by school parent Amanda Kesterson in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, calls for placing armed security guards in all of Gloucester’s schools, from the five current elementary schools to O’Maley Middle School and Gloucester High. And, at a projected cost of some $600,000 annually, that’s not sustainable — even if the city could land some of the federal school safety aid President Obama has promised for stepped-up school security programs.
But city officials and School Committee members — two of whom, Roger Garberg and Kathy Clancy, voted against even opening the door to Wednesday night’s hearing — should hear the calls tomorrow of parents and others truly concerned about children’s safety. And they should consider the likely gains that the district and the city could achieve by at least calling on police to perhaps install a resource officer at Gloucester High School, another at O’Maley, and a third who could rotate among the elementary schools.