Security Measures and New Faces at School


By Melissa Lynch

Of the topics that were discussed at Monday night’s school board meeting, security was one that garnered a good deal of discussion.

Board president Walter Wilcoxen discussed “miscommunication” concerning a security position at the elementary school. A vacant monitor position at a pay rate of approximately $12 an hour was left open after the previous employee resigned at the end of last school year. At a board meeting two weeks ago, an individual was hired to fill the vacant position at $22 an hour and an audience member questioned the pay raise. On Monday, Wilcoxen clarified that the individual hired indeed was not filling the vacancy per se, but rather a new, upgraded position.

Wilcoxen explained, “The monitor resigned very close to the time of the hiring of the new officer so it looked like we were replacing the monitor —that was a mistake and that was not what we were doing.”

Further, Wilcoxen explained the difference between a security officer and a monitor.

“There are monitors,” he said. “While they may offer some security while they are sitting there — they basically sit at the door and greet.”

He added that the security position is different. It operates on a shift from 3 to 9 p.m. and is intended to ensure that “the school would never be open while no one was there.”

Wilcoxen said that he believed elementary school principal Joan Frisicano took the initiative to move the security position from the 3 to 9 p.m. nighttime to the daytime hours of the vacant monitor position. He said “there may have been a little bit of a miscommunication there.” He also pointed out that the resolution two weeks ago was written as if the security guard was a replacement for the monitor when in fact, it wasn’t.

“We just added that data we thought people wanted to know and none of us caught it,” he admitted. “Sorry for the miscommunication — we will try to do better in the future.”

In the end, the new security position will be during school hours. The monitor’s job remains unfilled and will be an evening position.

These precautionary security issues stem from a lockdown situation that occurred last January in which a student who left the school was thought to be in danger of hurting himself or others inside the building.

Administrators believed that the student may have returned to the school with a weapon and the building went into lockdown mode. The doors were locked and students and teachers were sequestered in classrooms. The student never returned with a weapon but at the following board meeting parents and teachers talked about being prepared for such a situation in case it happened in the future.

The budget approved in May included the new security position as well as other security measures at both the high school and elementary school. A community referendum gave the board approval to spend $300,000 in state grant money in the form of EXCEL Aid (Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning) to install buzzers at the doors and strategically placed cameras in both buildings.

Wilcoxen believes the system will be installed by summer 2009. District architects must get approval from the state before work can begin.

Also, at Monday’s meeting a new biology teacher, Kevin Barron, was appointed to fill a vacancy. Barron was not at the meeting but an audience member questioned why his New York State certification in Biology 7-12 is pending.

 “He has completed his college degree and has sent all the information to the state,” said superintendent Dr. John Gratto, “and now the state department will be getting back to us.”

Barron completed his bachelor degree at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, majoring in biology with a minor in secondary education.

Also hired for this school year were music teacher Eric Reynolds and Spanish teacher Shannon Marr.

Reynolds, a music teacher for the middle school, replaces John Immerso, who left Pierson last spring before the end of the school year.

At the meeting two weeks ago, board member Wes Frye questioned whether or not the music position should be filled and Gratto has hired a consultant to evaluate the music program this fall. Reynolds taught a sample lesson over the summer to a group of music students and was recommended by Pierson principal Jeff Nichols.

Reynolds has a bachelor degree and completed coursework in his master of music education degree from Boston University. He previously taught instrumental music in Brockton, Mass. While there, Reynolds conducted bands at two elementary schools and a middle school. He has also worked in the field of arts administration for three years with the New York Youth Symphony in New York City.

Shannon Marr will be joining Sag Harbor Elementary as the kindergarten Spanish teacher. Marr studied abroad in Spain and Argentina and completed her master’s degree at Hofstra University. Most recently, Marr worked as a substitute teacher in the Longwood School District in Middle Island.

Also on Monday, Gratto provided an update on the elementary school’s gymnasium floor which was due to be completed by the time school begins next Thursday. Gratto said that the floor is getting its fourth coat of polyurethane and will be 99 percent finished by the time school begins. Workers will soon be putting in the basketball hoops and finishing touches. Pierson’s roof is receiving a new cap and coping and is also expected to be 99 percent complete by the time students arrive.