BOE commentary: Prioritizing school security 

BOE commentary: Prioritizing school security 


Following much discussion, evaluation and welcomed support from town officials, parents and school administrators, the Berlin Board of Education is excited to report that the newly-approved Security Department is working with the Town Facilities Department on completing and moving forward with many important initiatives.  

First of all, we are all pleased with the progress at Willard, Griswold, Hubbard and McGee schools regarding the new entrance vestibules, which are being partially funded with state grants. The construction is on track to be completed for the first day of school.

These vestibules are designed to prevent forced entry into a school through the use of ballistic glass and high security door entry systems. An unwanted intruder can quickly be identified in a contained area, allowing school staff more time to activate safety protocols and alert law enforcement and armed school security officers.

Other physical safety enhancements include the installation of Safety and Security Window Films to the schools’ exterior windows.

Although these window films do not offer ballistic protection, they deny the ability of an intruder from easily breaking through the glass panels and gaining building access. They will also mitigate hazards from shattered glass due to natural or human causes.  

The installation of new surveillance camera systems at McGee, Willard and Hubbard schools has begun. In addition to providing a deterrent to dangerous or poor behavior on school premises, the cameras are also a great tool for assisting school administrators in conducting investigations.

We hope to complete the purchase and installation of cameras at Griswold very shortly.

Funding for the camera systems is also partially provided by state grants.

Using the same grant funds, the installation of traffic denial bollards was recently completed at the high school. These bollards will provide pedestrian and building protection if a vehicle accidentally or intentionally drives onto the sidewalk in front of the high school. Additionally, these barriers will prevent vehicles from crashing into the building in an area where several offices have glass exterior walls.

The town has provided funds to the Board of Education for the purpose of hiring security staff for the schools. With the recent hiring of the Director of Security, Safety and Residency, John Smaltz, efforts are being made to bring compliance, cohesion and consistency to the All Hazards School Security and Safety Plan for the District.

The director has been meeting with the leadership at each school in efforts to become familiar with operations and facilities, as well as review overall security and safety protocols.

The Board of Education is also currently seeking applicants for the new security officer positions. State law mandates that these positions be filled with retired law enforcement officers. So future staffing will come with a vast amount of safety and security experience. It is hoped that the hiring will be completed prior to the start of the school year, or shortly thereafter.

Mr. Smaltz is working with school administrators to develop a deployment strategy that best serves the needs of the district. Efforts will continue toward the implementation of an enhanced school security program that best serves the needs of the Berlin community at present and in the future.