ARMED COPS IN SCHOOLS?
CEC 24 Pushes Security Proposal
Seeking to improve security at all public schools in the wake of the elementary school massacre in Connecticut last month, members of the Community Education Council of District 24 (CEC 24) recommended at its meeting last Tuesday, Jan. 22, at I.S. 73 in Maspeth that the Department of Education (DOE) adopt a safety plan involving the use of retired police officers and various security devices.
With zero council members voting in opposition, the advisory body passed Resolution 77, which recommends that the DOE hire 1,200 retired NYPD officers—armed with concealed handguns—and assign them to each public school in the five boroughs. This would be done to supplement unarmed NYPD School Safety Agents on patrol in public schools.
The resolution also called on the DOE to install at each school panic buttons—in which, upon being pushed, police could be notified immediately to respond to an emergency— as well as buzzer entry systems and video surveillance at the main entrances.
Presently, at each public school, the front door to the main entrance is unlocked, and visitors are required to register at a nearby security desk, where a School Safety Agent is usually stationed.
Before the resolution was brought up for a vote, Nick Comaianni, the CEC 24 president, stated that the council received concerns from parens about the resolution, such as the potential cost of having retired officers in every school.
Comaianni estimated that this would cost the DOE between $60 and $100 million, which “is really nothing” since the annual DOE budget is up to $13 billion. He said such an expenditure would be worth it to him as a parent, and to other parents, in providing a peace of mind when sending their children to school each day.
Citing the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. last month—in which a gunman shot and killed 20 students and six educators—he suggested that having an armed officer at a New York City public school could prevent such a horrific crime from taking place here.
“If there was an armed police officer, or an armed guard, that entire shooting could have been prevented, maybe not a total amount loss of life, but maybe one or two people,” he said. “If someone was there with a weapon, they could have made a difference. They could have taken that person out.”
The resolution is similar to one which was passed earlier this month by a community education council in Staten Island.
However, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott told the New York Daily News after the Staten Island vote that hiring retired officers to patrol schools while armed was “not happening, plain and simple.”
Name school for late principal
Members of the council also unanimously approved a resolution urging the DOE to rename P.S./I.S. 113 in Glendale in honor of its late principal, Anthony Pranzo, who died last year following a long battle with cancer.
“I knew Mr. Pranzo personally,” Comaianni said, noting that his children have attended the school under Pranzo’s leadership. “That school was his life.”
He credited the late principal with transforming P.S./I.S. 113 into on of the premier schools in all of Queens.
The school is currently listed as the Issac Chauncey School, honoring a hero of the War of 1812, according to Comaianni. Under DOE regulations, to change the school’s name, the district and school needed to search for the next of kin and/or descendants of the school’s namesake to receive their approval.
After much research—including a claim by a purported descendant of Chauncey that was never substantiated with any evidence—the council declared in its resolution that there was no objection to changing the school’s name.
Alejandro Megias, P.S./I.S. 113’s current principal, thanked the CEC for its support, adding that it would help bring solace to a school community that is still in mourning.
“He really turned that building into a family,” Megias said. “The community is still healing from this tragic loss. This will be an important step in that process.”
Need aid to hire school aides
In his president’s report, Comaianni told attendees that he contacted the DOE regarding the need for additional school aides to be hired at campuses around the district.
“It’s harder for principals to get an aide than a teacher,” he said, noting that the DOE has yet to fill 60 open positions for school aides in the district. Currently, he claimed that there are two aides on a list waiting to be hired.
Though the two unnamed aides are receiving compensation from the DOE, the council president charged, the agency has yet to assign either of them to a school.
“This is where the system fails,” Comaianni said. “I can’t, for the life of me, believe that they can’t fill two positions out of 60-plus that are available.”
Comaianni stated that he contacted the Chancellor’s office about the situation, and was told that the issue would be investigated.
Changes to the tests
Students and parents can expect big changes to the state exams for mathematics and English language arts for grades three through eight later this year, Community Superintendent Madeline Taub-Chan reported.
The English language arts exam will include a more challenging text to read and questions on context. Additionally, for certain questions involving a text to read, students will no longer be able to glance back at the text while answering questions.
For the math exams, Taub-Chan stated, students will face more complicated choices of answers and experience questions which will require them to demonstrate the ability to comprehend and provide answers quickly. Students will also need to have a quicker mastery of concepts such as the multiplication table.
Additional details about the testing changes will be provided at a future CEC 24 meeting. Taub-Chan also advised parents to check the DOE’s website, schools.nyc.gov, for further information and samples.
A contingent of parents from Corona came to the meeting seeking information about upcoming school construction projects in the area. Comaianni stated that representatives of the School Construction Authority (SCA) will be at CEC 24’s February meeting to go over the Five-Year Capital Plan, and advised the parents to return at that time.
Peter Vercessi, CEC 24 vice president, stated that the plan includes the construction of six schools in Corona for 4,600 students, scheduled to be completed by 2017.
Parents of public school students who are struggling academically will soon receive “promotion-in-doubt” letters from the DOE, Taub-Chan announced. Anyone who receives such a letter should reach out to their child’s school for further information.
The superintendent also reminded everyone that the mid-winter recess in February has been truncated due to lost school days during and after Hurricane Sandy.
Schools will be closed on Monday, Feb. 18 (Presidents Day) and Tuesday, Feb. 19, but will be open for class on Wednesday, Feb. 20, through Friday, Feb. 22.
Public schools will also be open on Thursday, June 6 (Brooklyn- Queens Day) as a makeup date.
The Community Education Council of District 24 generally meets on the fourth Tuesday each month at schools across its confines. For more information, call 1-718-418-8160.