By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – Superintendent of Schools Audrey Becker Wednesday, Aug. 10 updated the Board of Education on efforts being made to enhance school security.
Becker said she and school board President Kathy Horn met with Margate Police Chief Matthew Hankinson to discuss enhancements made to the district’s security procedures. Hankinson provided the administration with assurances that police are trained to respond to emergencies and first eliminate any threat to students and staff, and that the department would continue to do drills with police after school hours.
“He made us feel reassured they are ready to respond, and their response time is less than a minute from getting a call,” Becker said.
Becker noted that school security is a common goal for everyone in Margate and reminded parents and community members to report immediately to police anything that seems suspicious.
“Public safety needs to be an entire community goal,” she said. “If you see something, say something.”
She will attend an Atlantic County Criminal Justice Advisory Board meeting on Aug. 25 on the use of armed officers and K-9s in the schools as proposed by Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson.
“You have to balance effectiveness with the cost,” she said.
Additionally, NJ Sen. Vince Polistina this week introduced legislation that would allow county sheriffs to place Class III officers in schools to assist with security.
“As our children prepare to return to the classroom, parents shouldn’t be losing sleep with concerns about the safety of their kids,” Polistina said in a release. “Under this legislation, a County Sheriff could hire a retired police officer to work within the schools, during the class day and events, to ensure the highest quality of safety and security.”
Also, Gov. Phil Murphy is requiring school districts to form School Threat Assessment Teams by the start of the 2023-2024 school year. The team would assist staff in identifying students who pose a potential risk to others and prevent targeted violence in the district.
“Although we certainly have some planning for this team completed, we will not have a complete plan and policy ready to implement this September (of this year),” Becker said.
Additional training will be required to identify threatening student behaviors, she said.
Becker said the district will continue to refine safety drills, ensure procedures are well planned, and work each day to keep students and staff safe while in school.
In other business, Becker said the district will plant four white crepe myrtle trees along Monmouth Avenue at the rear of the Eugene A. Tighe Middle School where new sidewalks were installed a few years ago.
“It will improve the look of Monmouth Avenue,” Becker said.
The district is continuing with its roof replacement project and the ongoing tile floor replacement in the Tighe School.
The district has also accepted six non-resident tuition students for the upcoming school year.
Becker said that with the retirement of teacher Ron Pinter, the district will replace the life skills class he taught with computer science instruction for grades K-8. The state has no mandated standards for life skills programming and the district needs to improve computer science instruction, such as coding, robotics and 3-D drawing, which are part of New Jersey’s educational standards.
“We have so little time with the students that we want to make sure we are delivering what they need in high school and beyond,” she said.
Fifth and sixth grade students will focus on meal prep and planning and attend class in the home economics classroom where they can make simple meals, she said.
The board also established a memorial scholarship to honor the contributions of board Vice-president Tracy Santoro who died in early July.
Horn read an emotional statement from the board about Santoro’s contributions to the education of Margate students. Before serving on the Board of Education, Santoro founded the Margate Education Foundation, a community based organization that provides funding and resources for programs not covered in the school budget, including extracurricular programs and activities.
“She was always looking for new ways to enhance the school experience for all students,” Horn said. “She was determined to make our school system the best it could be.”
Santoro was honored as a “compassionate, hard-working, selfless individual who made the world a better place.”
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