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February 15, 2013

School board to host hearing on security

The city’s School Committee has agreed on a 4-2 vote Wednesday night to publicly hear a proposal that aims to place an armed security guard in each of Gloucester’s public schools.

Amanda Kesterson, the Gloucester resident and mother of three young Gloucester children who has pushed the proposal — collecting controversial electronic signatures of support, then replacing those with handwritten signatures after the city denied electronic ones’ legitimacy — requested the public hearing of the board Wednesday.

“It was really gratifying to know that four of the members of the School Committee were willing to listen to members of the community who were really concerned about something,” she said. “It’s an important first step. I’m really thankful.”

Kesterson originally submitted over 250 electronic signatures of support for her petition to the city, 250 being the threshold for requiring city council to hold a public hearing. Those signatures were rejected and Kesterson has since collected about 125 handwritten signatures, she estimates, and she plans to continue gathering support, though the urgency is diminished slightly by the to-be-scheduled public hearing.

“We’re going to continue gathering signatures. We’re just moving forward,” Kesterson said.

The two dissenting School Committee members, Roger Garberg and Kathleen Clancy, pointed to the petition’s use of electronic, rather than handwritten, signatures and research presented by Superintendent Richard Safier that countered the implementation of armed security guards in their reasoning for voting against the public hearing.

“It didn’t appear that the petition had the kind of merit that would call for public input,” Garberg said. “I’m concerned that we’re establishing a standard here of public hearing that dramatically lowers the bar such that it becomes ... it becomes counterproductive.”

“It’s really a matter of respecting the administration’s research and judgment on the issue,” he added.

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