The following are the remarks of New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Superintendent Robert Katulak made during the public meeting of the NHP-GCP Board of Education on Jan. 7, 2013:
Our school district really feels and values the safety of our students, equally as much as we value providing students with a well-rounded education. In lieu of the tragic events that happened in the Newtown School District, we want to assure our community, our parents, our students and our staff that we have had security measures in place and a training program for the past five years and even before then. Our administrators receive annual training on all of these safety precautions and they do annual drills.
The following are the drills that are practiced on an annual basis:
- we practice fire drills, a minimum of 12 a year
- evacuation drills
- emergency go home drills
- take shelter drills
- lock out drills
- lock down drills and there’s a difference between the two.
All these details are made clear to all staff including monitors, DA’s, teachers, custodians, however we don’t release those to the public because we have to make sure that the security is there. Our administrators last spring went to an intensive four-hour training with the FBI and Homeland Security and Nassau Police Department entitled “Active Shooters – Precautions and Strategies.” That was way before Newtown ever happened. Today as a follow-up, it was almost a year to the date we attended that same training this morning. As you can imagine, the entire auditorium was filled, there wasn’t a seat empty so we were receiving that same training.
We received some suggestions this morning that will help tighten our process and our emergency response strategy. On this Wednesday my administrative council, which consists of all the central office staff and all the building principals will be meeting with Peter LaDuca who is the head of BOCES safety and security and buildings and grounds. He will come and do an evaluation of our existing plan. We will also be meeting with the Third Precinct of the Nassau County Police force to go over those recommendations that me makes to our plan to see if they can tune it up.
One of the pieces that they were talking about today at the training was intensifying the partnership between the police department and the school districts; to have whatever means of telecommunications that we have available hooked in with the police department so they will be able to have a direct contact. They already have our floor plans and our emergency evacuation procedures, now they’re looking for audio feeds, video feeds and things like that. So we’re looking at (things) like that.
Mrs. LaRocca and I will be exploring whatever money might be out there to help us fund some upgrades in terms of technology, floor cameras and things like that; it’s a very difficult time, like Jennifer mentioned, in terms of that so we’re not looking to skimp on this but we’re looking at the realities of maintaining staff as well as maintaining the safety of our children.
Tonight we began the first budget session of our process. We’ll be back over the next three months to do the same. One of the things that you have ideas, in addition to what you would like to see maintained, if you have an exciting idea that’s never been tried before, as administrators we’re talking about if we would have to cut a service, can we do something that wouldn’t cut the entire service, maybe cut back part of the service and maintain those things. So we’re trying to explore all options when push comes to shove, but if you have something that you think of that maybe is out of the box, you’re looking at it very differently than an administrator, please send Mr. Frank or myself an e-mail and then I will bring it to the board when we’re answering what we’re doing.
Our dilemma is that we have a two percent cap as you know, we have unfunded mandates, we have increasing costs and we have programs that we must maintain. It’s the balance of the century as most of you say. We will do it and we’ll get there, it’s going to be an uphill climb but I can assure you and I appreciate Mr. Griffin’s response that again I can count on you guys which like the ice cream sundae we send the fliers and do everything that’s possible. Last year we got 64 percent “yes” response to the vote, which is outstanding. If we wanted to go for that supermajority, that would have been what we needed. We’re not insane because nobody’s going for that, but it’s good to know that when we all work together we can get a really active vote. So I thank you, it’s wonderful to see so many of you here, next month please come back, encourage some of your friends to come back and bring us some suggestions.