Parents Raise Questions at School Board Meeting

B y Jaime Thomas

A couple of parents recently questioned Granville Central School’s failure to touch base with them about safety procedures and preparedness after the recent school shooting in Connecticut.

According to a discussion after the meeting of those in attendance, the two represented a larger group of concerned parents.

“I do find it disheartening that we were not informed — to reassure us as parents and community members that there is a safety plan would’ve set everyone at ease,” said Mario Torres, who has been a coach at Granville for 13 years, during a meeting Monday night.

He and Tim Carroll, who has two children in the school system, both pointed out that Granville is the only area district they know of that didn’t send out a letter or a mass calling in acknowledgement of what happened.

“My thing is there are so many schools in this area, and all of them have reached out except Granville,” Carroll said.

“We didn’t send out a letter because we didn’t want to sensationalize. Other than that, it’s business as usual; safety’s always a concern,” Superintendent Mark Bessen responded. He went on to say the school does have a safety plan and had recently been looking into improving upon it before the tragedy in Connecticut happened.

“There was a lockdown drill at this level before the incident,” Bessen said. He and the two elementary principals mentioned procedure cards teachers have in the case of such an emergency. But the parents weren’t buying it.

“My daughter was in a lockdown and said none of the kids knew what a lockdown is,” Carroll said, adding that she told him the students were talking, texting and even posting on Facebook about what they were doing during the drill. He said he also asked his five-year-old son what to do in a lockdown, and the boy did not know either.

Bessen said the school will be adding a second emergency drill in the fall, in addition to the one that always takes place in the winter. He said he has been in communication with village police and will get in touch with state troopers, who would cover Mary J. Tanner.

“I question the validity of this. I bet if you took 25 teachers and asked them what to do in a lockdown, you’d get 25 different answers, and I bet the same is true for administration” Torres said. “I want my kids to be safe, and I want my friends who are teachers to be safe.”

Diane Dumas, principal at Mary J. Tanner, said she is going to do a stay-in-place drill with the students, but she did not want to do it too soon after the event. She said the school is virtually operating in lockdown mode at this point, and staff is continuing to work on safety.

At Granville Elementary School, Jane O’Shea said teachers participated in an exercise with a Positive Behavioral and Interventions and Supports (PBIS) instructor. They were given one minute to come up with the top five steps to take in an alarm, and they came up with the correct five. Like the other two schools in the district, Granville Elementary now has a buzz-in system that filters every visitor that comes through.

John Shaw, president of the Board of Education, acknowledged what Torres and Carroll said, and said the board would look into further measures.

“There’s nothing we can do to make ourselves 100 percent safe, but we can try. We are on top of this, and we have been looking,” he said, adding that he welcomes input from law enforcement or the public if anyone has further ideas. “That’s how we learn, by working together.”

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