School security task force formed
By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Jan. 25, 2013
On Jan. 22, East Hartford Superintendent of Schools Nathan Quesnel updated the town's Board of Education on the formation of a new school security task force that will look to improve upon existing security protocols in the town's schools. Quesnel said the task force will include members of the board, the town's police department, emergency response teams and school representatives.
The task force will hold three meetings examining existing security protocol, followed by meetings for proposed changes. "One of the big issues will be communication between the schools and first responders," Quesnel said. Security, he said, has been a focus of the school system. "We have visited these policies and procedures for years now," he explained.
Quesnel said the task force will take suggestions and comments from members of the community into account, and that they will thoroughly discuss all possible suggestions before any recommendations are made. "These decisions will be made thoughtfully and analytically, with the children in mind," Quesnel said.
Quesnel said he believed that existing security systems in the town's schools are ahead of other towns. "The district has made a significant investment in our school security. The buzzers and security cameras installed at all of our schools are a step ahead of other towns, but we're always looking to improve," he said. In addition to buzzers, security cameras and locked doors, Quesnel said that three schools - East Hartford High School, East Hartford Middle School and Sunset Ridge Academy - have security teams in place, and that school resource officers are also present in some of the town's schools. "Many of the security practices at our schools are best practices," Quesnel said.
Board member Denise Roberts said that although she had initially had reservations about placing school resource officers in the schools, she now feels that the investment has paid off. "I used to feel that school resource officers cost too much," she told Quesnel, "but now I feel that they are worth the money."
Stephanie Watkins, a member of the Board of Education, said she agreed that the town's existing security practices are sufficient. "At Mayberry [Elementary School], if they don't know you, you have to buzz in," she said. Watkins said that her daughter attends O'Brien STEM Academy, and that security there is also tight. "My daughter asked me to walk her to her classroom one day, and when I got near the classrooms, someone stopped me and told me I couldn't be back there," she said.
Quesnel said that he is already taking steps to improve security by ensuring all students have up-to-date emergency contact information on file with their school. "If the school needs to contact you, and you don't have an updated phone number, there's a problem," Quesnel said. Quesnel said that the school district plans to update its website to allow parents to check the contact information they have provided to the schools, and to update it if necessary.