Superintendent reports on progress of school safety

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Tue., Jan. 15, 2013

At the Jan. 10 Hebron Board of Education meeting, Acting Superintendent Kathryn Veronesi provided an update on the district’s response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. “We truly grieved with the rest of the world in what happened,” said Veronesi. Veronesi pointed out that the shooting happened the morning of Dec. 14. “At midnight, I took over as superintendent,” she said, noting that other local administrators also assumed new positions. Eric Brody took over as principal at Gilead Hill and Kristine Garofalo took over as assistant principal of Hebron Elementary.

Veronesi said that right away she spoke with Board of Education Chair Kathy Shea, followed by Resident Trooper Kyle Fitzgibbons, Gilead Congregational Church Pastor Denise Esslinger and school psychologists Scott Rossignol and Catherine Foote. “That was my team of support in getting out a correspondence to parents and to the staff,” she said. What they did, “Was to really think about what will people need,” said Veronesi, adding that their concerns included parents, students and school staff. Support included bringing AHM youth services volunteers in, providing pastries, coffee and tea for teachers, and holding discussion groups, by grade level, for students that wished to participate.

Administration quickly met with police to evaluate existing safety protocols and procedures, said Veronesi. “Right now, what’s happening is kind of a couple of things simultaneously,” she said. On the macro level, said Veronesi, she had attended a security symposium held in Southington with Bill Kramer, Hebron’s emergency management director, as well as the resident trooper. Veronesi referred to the symposium as “outstanding,” and said it had led them to a realization, “that we really needed to have a town-wide concerted effort to communicate and to look at all kinds of emergencies,” she said. These include weather, chemical, accidents or human-generated events. Veronesi and Kramer planned to put together a team to address the issue at the district level.

At the school level, Veronesi said the plan was to use existing health and safety committees to beef up security and safety. She said she had contacted staff via e-mail for their input. “Their feedback is absolutely invaluable,” said Veronesi. Several areas of vulnerability had already been identified. The district planned to present the town's Capital Improvement Plan Committee with a list of safety priorities at their Jan. 14 meeting.

Among the needs already identified was a new fleet of walkie-talkies. “Walkie-talkies are just an integral part of what we do every day in school,” said Veronesi, adding that the district was “kind of limping along with the set we have.” The current fleet of walkie-talkies, said Veronesi, had been purchased in 2006 and were no longer functioning reliably. She proposed the purchase of 40 new units at a cost of “close to $9,000,” calling the purchase an immediate need. Also proposed were buzzers for beneath desks in the front offices of the schools.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Mark Lord thanked Veronesi for the security update, saying that safety was one of the concerns that had brought him to the meeting. Lord also brought up the subject of lice, saying that it was an issue that seemed to keep popping up. He asked if more proactive measures were possible. Veronesi said that, in the seven years she’d been in the district, “it’s really the past two years that we’ve seen an increase in the incidence of lice.” Veronesi promised to speak to the school nurse regarding the issue.


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