The district sought feedback from all members of our school community about the topic of school safety from Feb. 26 through March 8. This was done through Thoughtexchange, an online engagement platform that allows participants to respond to a question and rate the thoughts of others.
The question that community members were asked to respond to was: What are some important things for us to consider as we work to ensure our schools are safe places for all students and staff to learn and work?
This Thoughtexchange included a total of 800 participants who shared 664 thoughts and provided 24,826 ratings.
You can see all of the thoughts, their ratings, and some themes in a report available at the following link: https://my.Thoughtexchange.com/report/77d745f9082f150f4ce4120335de05e7
“I would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate in this important conversation,” Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said. “The feedback will help inform our future planning. We will continue to review it and return to it as we move forward with the all-important goal of ensuring the safety and well-being of students and staff.”
District Update on Safety Planning
Based on the ongoing work in the area of school safety and community feedback, the district is taking the following steps:
- An outside organization conducted a safety audit for the district this spring and the district expects to work with experts in the field to help implement safety and emergency preparedness plans.
- Lockdown kits and “go bags” have been placed in every classroom in the district.
- The district made PA system repairs on 2018-19 and has budgeted for more next year.
- The district is continuing to focus on strengthening mental health support for students. Since 2015-16, a total of five full-time social workers have been added. The proposed 2019-20 budget includes 2 additional social worker positions and a high school alternative education teacher coordinator.
- The district continues to identify facilities improvements that can be made in the short-term to enhance safety (i.e. doors and signage), while more substantial infrastructure improvements are likely to be considered as part of the capital project planning process.
- The district has an active safety committee that includes representatives of the Niskayuna Police Department, the Schenectady County and Saratoga County Sheriff’s Departments, the New York State Police, and the Niskayuna Fire Department.
- Based on guidance from law enforcement and other safety experts, the district will continue to strengthen and refine training and education for staff and students.
School Resource Officers
The feedback showed some support for a school resource officer and varying perspectives on the broader issues of armed personnel in schools. However, the feedback also indicated that the community has other strong priorities when it comes to safety. Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., has emphasized that the role of a school resource officer is not to serve as an armed guard, but rather to build relationships with students and staff. Further, the district has a strong working relationship with the Niskayuna Police Department, its officers are a regular presence in our schools, and can be at a school quickly when the need arises. Given this fact, Dr. Tangorra said the district is not currently pursuing a school resource officer but is always looking to further strengthen the role that law enforcement plays in our schools.
Thoughts and ratings shared in the Thoughtexchange did indicate a level of interest in disciplinary practices and in the district communicating outcomes when the Code of Conduct is violated.
“We strive to communicate the Code of Conduct effectively and enforce it equitably. We are always looking to refine the Code and its implementation,” Dr. Tangorra said. “Members of the school community should understand that as a matter of policy and privacy, we do not release information about student discipline. Yet, just because we don’t share this information does not mean anyone should assume that we don’t take appropriate action with student safety in mind when needed.”