Board reorganizes, hears about school safety

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Laura Stetser/Newly reappointed president of the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education James Galvin stands with Barbara Szilagi, this year’s vice president after the board’s reorganization meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8 Laura Stetser/Newly reappointed president of the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education James Galvin stands with Barbara Szilagi, this year’s vice president after the board’s reorganization meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – The Board of Education held its reorganization meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8, swearing in two incumbents and two newly elected board members to the district’s governing body.

 Incumbent John “Jack” Haines, former member Pete Castellano and newcomer Lisa Dagit began their three-year terms and incumbent Mary Ann Spiker started her two-year term on the board. All thanked the community for supporting them in the election and looked forward to serving the public in their posts.

 James Galvin was reappointed as president for the 11th time, with Barbara Szilagyi taking her first turn vice president.

 The board got right to business after the reorganization portion, listening to a report from Superintendent Scott McCartney on school security during the board’s first regular meeting since the school shooting in Connecticut in December.

 “I have had many parents and staff contacting me with worries about school security,” he said. “I am very proud of the many things we do in our school system. In fact those very same procedures saved numerous lives in the Connecticut school. Our procedures of locking down and securing our school if there is an intruder or someone with intentions to harm our students are in place for just that reason.”

 McCartney said the schools practice drills at least once a month, but just because the district feels it has a good plan in place it will continue to evaluate their procedures.

 “It’s something you never really stop. We are doing many good things, but doesn’t mean conversation stops,” he said, noting the district’s security director has been reevaluating the schools, meeting with staff and will report to the administration at an upcoming meeting.

 He said he has been asked to consider “extreme” measures such as permitting weapons on staff members or allowing retired police officers that are part of school security to carry a gun.

 “There are question of legality. How you do that? Can you do that? What’s the liability? It’s really not a simple answer to a complex problem,” McCartney said.

 The administration will learn from the incidents that have occurred across the country.

 “Then we can make rational decisions in a way that is fiscally responsible, makes sense from a liability standpoint and doesn’t create two or three layers of problems,” he said.

 Board member Thor Himley said discussions about safety and security are an everyday part of his line of work as a pilot in the New Jersey Air National Guard and prevention is always the best line of defense.

“There are all kinds of things that are out there” to provide more safety in schools, he said. “But the best way is to identify potential at-risk individuals. Everyone is a sensor. That’s the saying in my workplace. If something doesn’t look right, doesn’t smell right, ask the question. It never hurts to ask the question. Please don’t get complacent. We can put up all of the barricades, all of the walls…but this is the world we live in and we can only prevent it by protecting each other.”

Watch a video of the superintendent’s message about school security below.


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