, Gloucester, MA


February 18, 2013

Editorial: School board makes right call on security hearing

It’s hard to imagine we’ll soon see armed security guards in all of Gloucester’s schools.

The sheer cost of that staffing alone, projected by Superintendent of Schools Richard Safier at $550,000 to $600,000 annually, seems prohibitive.

Yet the Gloucester School Committee deserves credit for giving a green light last week to scheduling a hearing sought by Gloucester parent Amanda Kesterson, who has mounted a petition drive aimed at airing that type of school security proposal. For even if a full security staffing upgrade is not realistic, the hearing could shed light on parent concerns and steps the city school system and Police Department could take to bolster student safety, whether through rotating school resource police officers or some other means.

For while school officials and parents like to think our schools are safe, and that attacks on kids’ safety somehow can’t happen here, there are reminders all around us that security can be fleeting — from a reported student gun threat that drew police to Gloucester High a week after Connecticut’s Sandy Hook massacre, to someone starting a fire in an O’Maley Middle School bathroom this past week that cleared the school and a confirmed threat just a town away that led to charges against a student at Manchester Essex Regional.

In agreeing to host a school safety hearing, the School Committee is also showing it recognizes the need to be accountable to residents who have legitimate questions and challenges to school policy. That’s especially the case on a proposed new West Gloucester elementary school, for which there is no documentation of community support – yet which, on Mayor Carolyn Kirk’s current course, will never face a referendum. And it remains the case regarding any school consolidation proposals and a renewed education use of the former Fuller School, which the city has let deteriorate despite the community’s need for an emergency shelter and storm operations center.

Granting Kesterson’s request for a hearing doesn’t come close to suggesting the committee would approve placing armed guards in Gloucester schools. But it reiterates that committee members are not only accountable to students and their parents, but to the needs of city taxpayers who elect them every two years.

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