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LETTER: East Haven Schools Need 'Clear and Precise' Security Plan

"There needs to be a clear and precise plan in place that offers the same level of security for each and every student," and "there must be immediate communication with the parents notifying them of the situation," Chris Kowalczik wr

The following is an open letter to the Superintendent of Schools, Board of Education and the Mayor of East Haven.

Dear Mr Serio:

It is with great concern that I write you today, for I am the father of (2) two students in the Momauguin School. As I am certain that you are busy, I do hope that you take the time to read this email and share in my concerns regarding Monday’s lock-down at the school.

I would like to begin with the fact that my wife is very, very upset. She spent the majority of last evening begging me to not let the kids go to school until after the Holiday break because she fears for their safety.

She is convinced that your current emergency plan for the school does not provide adequate protection for every student, and therefore I have concerns.

While I must say that the schools quick decision to go into “lock-down” must be commended, I feel the need to address what I and other parents consider to be a very poor execution of follow through.

First and foremost the students were not prepared for this experience; some students wouldn’t remain quiet, others had not “fit” in the designated safe area within the classroom.

There needs to be a sense of urgency placed on the training of the students so they understand their responsibilities during such an event.

Furthermore there needs to be a clear and precise plan in place that offers the same level of security for each and every student in the building and in the end there must be immediate communication with the parents notifying them of the situation.

During these procedures there is no room for errors, peoples live could be at risk and there must be proper planning, training, execution and follow through.

To explain why I feel so strongly and took the time to communicate my concerns with you, I was very disappointed to hear from my children the events that took place during the lock-down on Monday.

Please keep in mind that even though now we know the noise outside the school was only firecrackers, at the time they were believed to be gunshots and the execution of the lock-down should have been treated as such. Although I have several concerns, one stands out from the rest.

During the lock-down my son’s fifth grade class was to seek safety inside a closet within the classroom.

As the students sought safety it became apparent that not everyone would fit and the decision was made to have (4) four students remain outside the appointed safety area and “hide” within the classroom.

This is unacceptable; every student should be allotted the same level of security.

And before you attempt to convince me that he was “safe” hiding in the classroom, even he knew, if an assailant were to have broken into the room, he, the teacher and the other student’s chances of survival were greatly diminished.

How do I explain to my son that during that time of crisis, a decision had to be made as to who lives and who dies if an armed assailant were to enter that classroom?

How do I clear his mind that his life is less important than those safely hidden in the closet?

In this age of technology, communication with the parents should have been instantaneous after the lock-down concluded.

The school has no problem calling my house and my cell phone three and four times a day when there is a fund raiser or an event sponsored by a local school, but when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of our children I am not notified until nearly four hours after the incident?

Some parent found out when their children got off the bus and never received the pre-recorded message regarding the lock-down.

While to you Monday’s lock-down can be seen as a precautionary measure that proved effective towards a strand of firecrackers, the children saw it differently.

I took the time to speak with my children over the weekend and educate them on the tragic events that occurred last week in Newtown, so to them this situation was very real and very frightening.

How am I as a parent supposed to comfort my children and explain the situation to them if I am not notified?

Do you feel that waiting nearly four hours was an acceptable period of time to notify me that my children were, frightened and put into a situation to where they thought they may die?

In conclusion I ask you: How are YOU going to ensure that this type of execution does not occur in the future?

How are you going to ensure that EVERY student is afforded the SAME level of security during a lock-down?

How are you going to improve communication with the parents so we can respond properly to our children during such and event?

Mr. Serio, I am not looking for a generic reply of “we are doing everything we can and working with local officials …. “

I am looking for an executable emergency plan that includes education, monthly practice drills, a safety zone that offers the same level of security for all the students and an effective, timely communication plan for the parents.

This is the safety of our children; I don’t think that is too much to ask for.

Chris Kowalczik

Luigi (the original) December 19, 2012 at 03:12 PM
OK Chris, agreed. A proper plan should be in place for an emergency and every student should be afforded the same level of safety. My point was, as explained we as parents should remain rational and understand the likelihood of a re-occurrence of Sandy Hook is less than the chances of being struck by lightning. Holding the administration accountable for an emergency plan is important, however, no plan, no matter how thorough will insure you won't get hit by a bolt of lightning.
Rosie December 19, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Hi Mr. Kowalczik: I absolutely agree that as soon as the percieved threat was concluded, the Principal should have sent out an immediate connect -ed call to parents, as well as following up with a letter. As a parent myself, I would absolutely be terrified if I heard something like this through the grapevine. I wish there was an easy answer. Best wishes for the holiday season.
Michele Guliani December 19, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Mr. Serio, I am uncertain if the update you were referring to is based on a reply to this email or the generic letter that was sent home with the students? However my safety concerns were heightened as I was made aware via the EH Patch and NH Register on Monday that Momauguin School was on lockdown. Receipt of an automated phone call from the system hours after the fact is clearly unacceptable! At this point I am debating whether I should send my 9 yr old to school with a cell phone so he can immediately contact me directly in the event of an emergency and I can pinpoint his exact location at any time during the day via GPS. Some would call this extreme however I am a concerned parent like many others and the safety of my child is my number one priority when he is not in my presence. I found his response disturbing to the lockdown on Monday as he simply said "nothing we just went back to our classrooms." I strongly believe as a parent that a thorough review of policy and procedures need to be immediately addressed as I myself did not find comfort in the letter that was sent home on Monday. I would hope that the safety of the students is your number one priority and strongly feel adequate training and drills need to be in place and executed for the sake our students. "SURELY WE CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS"...well said President Obama! Michele Guliani
Michele Guliani December 19, 2012 at 04:24 PM
In reference to the above email trail as there is a character limitation per comment. From: ASerio@mail.east-haven.k12.ct.us Police are going to be at the schools in the am. I will be planning this morning.I will update you today Mr. Serio, Our children need a police presence at school and I was saddened not to hear this in tonights automated message. I encourage you to follow the direction of Guilford and surrounding towns who will have police at their schools on Monday as many children are frightened to return. What do you say to a 9 yr old as they ask with tears coming down their face what if they come to my school? How do you tell them yes they have to go to school when you yourself fear for their safety. These children need to feel secure and it is your job to ensure they feel safe. Extremely Disappointed Parent
Michael A. Mongillo December 19, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Folks, we CAN do better, but we need to get started immediately. Please read my Security Proposal at http://easthaven.patch.com/announcements/kids-and-guns-new-school-security-proposal
Michele Antisdel December 19, 2012 at 05:24 PM
I live across the street form Tuttle and noticed when I left for work this morning there was a police cruiser out front. I have a daughter in the high school and I received no notification of any kind of possible threat, it I had, she would not have gone to school. I also have an issue with the fact that technically, students are not allowed to have cell phone at school. I have fought this from when my older daughter was still in school. With all that is going on, and given the fact that parents are not being notified of security issues, our kids should definately have cell phones with the.
Peter T. Cianelli December 19, 2012 at 05:28 PM
We are all offering up solutions on how better to protect our children & grandchildren to the tragedy that occured in Newtown..... There isn't one !!!.... Evil people exist and they always will.... Some people are simply born broken... They want to rape, kill, hurt.. They are cowards that pray on the defenceless.... We can prepare for them... Look out for them, and do our best to be vigilant ,but we can't legislate them or counsel them... One adult in that Sandy Hook school with a concealed weapon could have saved lives... I think some teachers, some day-care staff and other adult groups that work with children should be required to carry firearms on the job and maintain a continued proficiency at rapid-reaction tactical shooting.. Their job is to protect children ; if they are not physically, mentally, and morally competent to do that job, they don't belong in these positions...
Teacher/Parent December 19, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Great article by Lt Col Grossman http://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=569855499706580&id=171432776215523&refid=17
Richard Poulton December 19, 2012 at 07:33 PM
AS of 12/19/2012, police officers killed in the line of duty by gun fire - 45. And this includes two from the same department in Kansas just 2 days ago.
Mike D December 19, 2012 at 08:12 PM
I applaud all the parents that ask questions. All of my children and my niece and nephew will be with me on Friday. Rumor or not , my family will not be taking the risk. Especially when you can't get a clear answer from the high school.
Julie Weisberg (Editor) December 19, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Michelle: I just wanted to clarify that, according to a press release from the Mayor's Office late Monday, there will be police officers at the schools during arrival and dismissal. You can read more about the town's response and coordination, which is discussed in the statement from the Mayor's Office, here: http://patch.com/A-0zMr
Rosie December 19, 2012 at 09:10 PM
There was police presence at every school on Friday at dismissal, as well as every day this week at arrival and dismissal. There was also a police officer and a security guard at a school concert this week. There are lock down drills. There are security camera's and buzzers. Not sure what more can be done to protect our children, short of putting them in a bubble. I know I for one, can't constantly live in fear. Our children only pick up on that, and it is not a way that I choose to raise my children. Sandy Hook school had a brand new, high tech security system, and obviously had a plan in place for emergencies. It did not, and will not stop a determined individual. Sad, but true.
michele guliani December 19, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Not sure what school you are referring to however at my sons school Momauguin there were no drills and to add insult to injury I just asked him where do they hide in school on lockdown and he told me nowhere there is only one small closest in his room and it's messy bc it's filled with their bookbags. So I told him to ask his teacher tomorrow where there are suppossed to go and he said ok mom remind me. So lets not talk about sad. I can think of plenty more that can be done speak for your own child! If the school is not going to provide refuge in the event of a emergency perhaps they need to provide security throughout the entire school day!
No_More_Baloney December 20, 2012 at 02:13 AM
A good start would be to cut out the passive, aggressive, dishonest bullying behavior which so often triggers these angry young men. Secondly, we need a complete overhaul of our mental health care system. Finally a tracking system such as Gavin Details Becker's MOSIAC, so that we can better predict this sort of violence in the future.
No_More_Baloney December 20, 2012 at 02:14 AM
A good start would be to cut out the passive, aggressive, dishonest bullying behavior which so often triggers these angry young men. Secondly, we need a complete overhaul of our mental health care system. Finally a tracking system such as Gavin De Becker's MOSIAC, so that we can better predict this sort of violence in the future.
No_More_Baloney December 20, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Following folks around and harassing them inevitably leads to an explosion. Are you who would invade the privacy of others prepared for the eventual consequences? It is time for some grown up accountability and change. Over 2000 people a year are struck by lighting. Are you willing to gamble away the lives of 2000 more of our precious children because you prefer to play immature power over games rather than face reality?
Change December 20, 2012 at 02:34 AM
What scares me, and most likely scares the hell out of law enforcement is the possibility of copy-cat massacres. By tolerating bullying in our schools and communities, we are sending a loud message to children that bad behavior is acceptable as long as you can get away with it. East Haven's own"cancerous cadre" is a prime example of this mentality. Change starts at home. It starts with honesty, integrity, kindnesses, respect for others and living by the golden rule.
Luigi (the original) December 20, 2012 at 09:48 AM
Since it was me who made a reference to lightning, I have to assume this childish and asinine rant is aimed at me. I didn't follow or harass anyone on this thread, and from what I've read here you are the only one "harassing" anyone. You_Spineless_Puke Thanks though, for making my point. According to YOU 2000 people a year are struck by lightning. Random acts are no more predictable than they are stoppable. We should thank God these murderous rampages are much less frequent than lightning strikes and stop living our lives in fear of cowards........cowards much like YOU.
Chris Kowalczik December 20, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Rosie - we need better communication with our schools and better follow through with their plans. I am not going to dismiss what you are saying but I would like to make a few points of reference, a couple are in the letter above. "There are security camera's and buzzers." -- Yes there are, however they are only as useful as the person using them. For instance, yesterday when we attended the band concert, we approached the locked door and hit the button. We were buzzed in and not one person asked who we were, why we were there or even greeted us to point us in the right direction. The security cameras and the buzzer offered no protection at all. "There was police presence at every school on Friday at dismissal, as well as every day this week at arrival and dismissal." Yes there was... but what if there was a crisis at 11:00 am.... there would have been no Police Officer or Security presence there. " There are lock down drills" - Are there? My children have not stated to the fact. Furthermore, if there were lock-down drills in my son's class, it would have been known that 4 students didnt fit in the safe area. The children would have known that they should remain quiet. I appreciate your opinion, however I think the facts will disagree with you.
Chris Kowalczik December 20, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Is your son in the 5th grade Michele?
Chris Kowalczik December 20, 2012 at 01:36 PM
No_More_Baloney - I can certainly see your argument when it comes to behavioral issues, however that is not the first step in assuring the safety of our children. Should and does it need to be addressed, most certainly. However lets make sure safety plans are in place before we tackle a bigger project.
Michele Guliani December 20, 2012 at 01:45 PM
4th grade and I asked him again yesterday did the school go over any drills and he said no. I asked him where do you hide he said 2nd fl classrooms have no bathrooms and 1 small closest filled with their bookbags. There is no where to hide! I strongly feel if the school cannot provide refuge in the event of a emergency they should provide security throughout the entire day! I told him to raise his hand today and ask the teacher where do they hide in a emergency...awaiting the response!
Change December 20, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Those of you who cling to bullying, name calling, stalking, and projection are doomed to see a repeat of this tragedy.
Rosie December 20, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Mr. Kowalczik: I appreciate your response, and please understand, I also have children in and that went through the school system. I am just as concerned. I can not speak for all schools, but I know in my school NO ONE enters without knowing who it is. EVER. All the doors are locked, front and back. And there are lock down drills...it is a requirement by the district. As for the police and security, you are correct, they are only here for a limited time. I am in no way trying to diminish your concerns. It is just my opinion that we unfortunately live in a society that it is impossible to foresee what could happen. As stated, Sandy Hook had a brand new, state of the art security system, and it did not help. There have been shootings in malls, in movie theaters...are we going to keep our children from there as well. It is sad, but unfortunately, it's the world we live in. I choose, and this is my choice, to live my life...not in fear, but to live and I will continue to raise my children this way as well. Please accept my best wishes for the holidays.
Rosie December 20, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Is there really a need to be so nasty? I have no idea about momauguin...I am never in that end of town. Sorry if I upset you, I was speaking my own opinions, and letting you know what I saw in my end of town . I really don't think, at this time of year and in the wake of what has occurred that there is a need to be so rude.
JRSmith December 21, 2012 at 06:25 AM
Just an observation from a parent of a kindergarten student in E Haven.... I picked up my child early on Monday after the tragedy in Newtown. Is it sufficient to simply say "I am the father of 'John Smith', here to pick him up." ? I believe we need, at least, a keycard system, like most companies have, or a system like Planet Fitness has, where you scan your card, and up pops your info for the clerk to check. Let's give our schools at least that level of security. IOW... You scan your card, your picture and info comes up on the computer of the office staff, next to a live closed circuit video of you, then you can get 'buzzed' in. When my child was in Little Jackets at Tuttle School, there were MANY times that I pushed the buzzer button, and someone simply unlocked the door. That, my dear friends, is unacceptable. and, yes, I would gladly accept an increase in taxes to put an armed Police officer in every school from the time the school is unlocked in the morning, until it is locked in the evening. Finally, I would also suggest that the 'guard' at the little house at EHHS actually stop EVERY vehicle and ask EVERYBODY what their business is at the school. It's nice that they take the little slip of paper for my kid's early dismissal... But isn't the purpose of a guard to screen those who are ENTERING the premises?
JRSmith December 21, 2012 at 06:33 AM
According to both of my kids that attend EHHS, there was a specific student who made the threats, and that student was in school this week. Is there no disciplinary action for making a 'kill list'? 2 years ago, a freshman girl at EHHS was suspended for 10 days for whacking a Junior male on the shoulder. Bottom line, the student that made the 'kill list' stated Friday (today) as the day. The school has not done it's job to protect the students, so my kids are staying out of school.
Chris Kowalczik December 21, 2012 at 12:25 PM
I wanted to give an update as to my letter to Mr. Serio, to whom I just got off the phone with. I will say that I was expecting a politically correct response and prepared to argue with him, but in reality he was genuinely concerned and open to suggestions. He took the time to address some specific points within my letter, he discussed some other letters and calls he has received from other concerned parents. He also told me that he spoke with the districts principles yesterday and due to my letter and some of these other parents concerns they all agreed that they need to revise the current emergency plans and drive home educating the children how to properly execute the plan. He also said that he had a conversation with another parent this morning and he agrees with the both of us that the plan should be shared with parents so we are all on the same page. He concluded with making sure I had his number so I can reach him with any questions, concerns or suggestions in the future. I of course offered my service if there was anything I could do as a parent to assist with the process. I know we are not going to see a result tomorrow, but with the return from winter break there should be new policies ready to be put in place. Thank you to everyone who shared, supported and spoke up. It is because of our voice that change is coming.
Julie Weisberg (Editor) December 21, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Chris: Thank you for taking the time to pass along an update. I'm sure readers, parents and other residents appreciate it. Thanks again.
Nathan Brown December 21, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Chris, from one parent to another, Thank You. I hope there are ways other parents can get involved. I look forward to seeing the changes to be put in place and hope our children's security is taken seriously.

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