Poland schools should have a resource officer
By Ashley Luthern
The massacre of 20 children and six adults Friday in Newtown, Conn., was uppermost in the minds of officials, parents and administrators at Monday night’s Poland school board meeting.
Starting with a moment of silence to remember the victims and the flag lowered to half-staff in front of the building, the school board heard from township Trustee Eric Ungaro, who implored the board to reconsider having a school-resource officer.
Ungaro campaigned on the issue when he ran for trustee. In February, the school board and township came to an agreement to allow a township police officer to make periodic rounds at the high school as part of a regular beat.
“This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction,” Ungaro said. “This is something we’ve been talking about for a long time. ... We’re going to do whatever we can to make it work.”
Ungaro said he has the support of local elected representatives, including his fellow trustees and township Police Chief Brian Goodin who were at the meeting, in addition to support from private businesses that could donate to help fund a full-time resource officer.
The school had a resource officer from 2002 to 2006, when a federal grant funding the position ended.
“Today, it’s a lot more important than it was days ago,” Ungaro said.
Interim Superintendent Don Dailey said the district is reviewing its emergency plan, researching installing security cameras inside and outside of all district buildings, securing building entrances with a buzzer system and examining police presence in the school.
Some of the classroom doors lock only from the hallway, not inside the classroom, and need to be replaced, he said.
The changes are “not going to happen tomorrow,” Dailey cautioned.
That didn’t sit well with Al Milano, who has children in kindergarten, third grade and sixth grade in the district.
“We needed this done yesterday,” Milano said. “... If they don’t have locked doors, I’m ready to take my kids out [of the district].”
Milano said he represents the views of dozens of parents who think the district should create a plan, budget it and bring it to the community, asking for funding help if needed.
Board President Dr. Larry Dinopoulos asked Treasurer Don Stanovcak about funding the safety improvements. The treasurer said the funding would have to come from a variety of places, such as the permanent-improvement fund and the general fund.
Dailey said estimates for the security cameras alone are in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The board and township trustees also said they will apply for any grants they can find for school safety.
“The public will demand locks on doors and a buzzer,” Dinopoulos said.
Superintendent Ron Iarussi of the Mahoning County Educational Service Center urged parents and officials to contact state legislators as the state’s school funding system is under review.
“School safety needs to be the No. 1 priority. It needs to be a funded mandate. ... This is a situation that doesn’t discriminate,” Iarussi said, meaning what happened in Connecticut could happen anywhere.