BOE Meeting – September 13, 2022

SSCSD Board of Education Meeting Notes (SEEN)
September 13, 2022
Division Street
Notes by Lisa Glazer and Rebecca Lynch
View the meeting. Read the Meeting Agenda

Trustees Present: Tony Krackeler (President), Natalya Lakhtakia (Vice President), Erika Borman, John Brueggemann, John Ellis, Amanda Ellithorpe, Anjie Emeka,  Dean Kolligian, Connie Woytowich.

Trustees Absent: Anjie Emeka

7: 33 Public Comment Period #1

  • Julie Marshall – teaches in Mechanicville. Asking for SROs in the schools because it would make her feel safer. 
  • Matt Kopans – concerned about MS and HS start times. There are proven increases in attendance and graduation rates. Also lower incidences of depression and other emotional concerns. This is how we help keep our students safe. Tired teenage drivers have accidents. We could have sports occur later or prioritize academics over sports.
  • Eden Kopans – In 8th grade at Maple Ave. Says often have 1 or more SROs. There is a 1 in 1 million plus chance that a child will get killed in a shooting but a much higher chance of a student getting killed by a gun and notes that in the handbook it states that where there is a gun there is a greater chance for unintended tragedy. Also mental health concerns specifically around students of color. Has heard that SROs are there as a resource but doesn’t want to talk to someone with a gun and riot baton. It is better to have more therapists and social workers in school.
  • Tara Gaston – HS policy regarding excessive tardies and absences. Students would be “punished” for tardiness and absences by being excluded from privileges. Concerns: family necessity and transportation are not considered excuses. Students are excused for bus issues but not for home transportation issues. Was told that administrators can decide if something is excused. Unspecified sports and religious reasons are excused. The students who are most likely to be tardy or absent are those already with less access to resources. The students with fewer resources are therefore going to be punished and isolated.
  • Erin Leary – Compares DARE programs and its failures to the prevalence of SROs. DARE was almost immediately determined to be unsuccessful but was continued and federally funded and police were often used to teach the program. As DARE declined SRO usage increased and money was reallocated. Also notes that research shows that SROs often increase violence in schools and disproportionately disadvantage marginalized groups.
  • Rebecca Lynch – opposition to expansion of SROs. Emailed district admin that an officer introduced himself to students and parents as an SRO even though only 1 officer is a designated SRO. Was informed that SSPD has added an officer. That should be a decision of the board, not of one city official. Also goes against the DEI policy and regulation which states that all decisions should be made through an equity lens. I want everyone to be safe and look at research before making decisions. 
  • Crystal Horn – discusses the terms of SRO and liability the district takes on when officers are put in schools without clear understanding between the police department and district. Officers are only trained for SRO duties but are not yet assigned. The assignment has not happened and yet other officers are being called SROs in our schools. Also important is a memorandum of understanding that should be community developed to establish among other things that SROs are not involved in school discipline. Asks many questions that are not clarified about roles and decision making. Anything less than a community approved contract puts all stakeholders in jeopardy.
  • John Miller – 1st BOE meeting. Son is in K at DN. One concern at K orientation is that school is vulnerable to an active shooter. Supports having an armed SRO in our elementary schools. Hears other sides and understands it’s not a cure all but its a line of defense to help protect kids and lower the body count.
  • Heather Reynolds – Dedicated professional life to making schools safer and more welcome. Some studies indicate that SROs in elementary schools contributed to students having a heightened fear of outside threats despite being very safe in school. Perceived safety is a very important factor in student success. Research shows that the presence of SROs negatively impacts the ability of students of color to find a feeling of safety and success. Finds it troubling that this is being considered at a time that the local PD is under investigation for civil rights violations.
  • Lisa Glazer – SRO presence is an illusion of safety. We need to focus on restorative solutions to the safety challenges our students face every day. Students of color may not feel safer or in fact be safer.
  • Steve Verral – Student parking – the city is looking for creative solutions to student parking. In the past students were targeted with tickets and unfair timing access. He will be emailing some helpful options but asks that district reps be at the upcoming 9/21 meeting scheduled by the city.

Board Committee Reports – No reports

7:31 Student Representative Reports

  • Student reps (Kate and Ryan) provided highlights from each district building.

7: 35 Superintendent’s Comments

  • Thanks Division Street and Dr. Miller for hosting the 1st meeting of the year!
  • Recognize 25-year Employees – 8 staff members were recognized before this meeting
  • Welcome back!  Start of school year schedule. 
  • Opening of School Year Recognitions.
  • Welcome new student Board of Education representatives.

Presentation 1: School Safety Presentation

  • Presented by: David L’Hommedieu, Assistant Superintendent for Information Technology & Operational Innovation and members of our District Emergency Response Team will provide an overview of ongoing physical, systemic and social-emotional safety initiatives across the district.
  • Agenda (noteakers comment – the linked presentation has a lot of details. Notes will be added for additional points of interest)
  • DERT-BERT Relationship – District team vs Building teams
  • Partnerships (should also include fire department) 
  • Review of NIMS (National Incident Management System) – Teams amongst the DERT
  • Prevention and Proactive Measures – all buildings have in school supports and some buildings have outside clinicians in the schools (BHSN). Currently no social worker at caroline st. No elementary schools have school counselors.
  • Threat Assessment 
  • Procedure Review: (district goes above and beyond state requirements)
    • Hide Run Fight Lockdown Drills
    • Fire Drills (really evacuation drills which is broader)
    • SHELL document is in classrooms and buildings to help guide and students and staff are trained on this
    • Hide Run Fight – one size doesn’t fit all in an emergency
  • Stop the Bleed Initiative
    • Devices/kids  available in the school (currently 60 across district)  to help in the event of severe injury and staff trained to deal with those injuries (currently 68 across buildings). 
  • Legacy Capital Safety/Security Improvements
    • Overall a lot more video surveillance and cameras, vestibules with dividers, radios, classroom visibility film to reduce visibility into rooms
    • Separate entrance/vestibule for visitors with 2 sets of locked doors before access to entire building plus a security tv monitor where you can see yourself
    • Purchased a new visitor management system which streamlines process of looking at sex offender database
    • Alyssa’s law – being looked at to use existing infrastructure or new tech
  • NYSIR Safety Audit and visual inspections of buildings playgrounds
    • We have implemented almost all the things recommended in 2018
    • Upcoming safety audit next month – see presentation for what they will look at
  • Role of the SRO
    • SSPD has been allocating officers to visit elementary schools (Notetakers comment: L’Hommedieu makes sure to point this out)
    • Sheriff Deputy Martin – job Includes monitoring lunches and walking through hallways – carries a nerf football as an engagement tool
  • See Something Say Something
    • Presented by SSPD SRO Barrett – primarily responsible for safety (notetaker’s comment: Officer Barrett is presenting to the audience instead of to the board, which is who this presentation is for, almost as if he is trying to sway public opinion.)
    • Tries to educate students on numbers to call (584-1800) in SS non-emergency number
    • Safe School Helpline – app which students and adults can use to report.
      • If it’s a school matter it stays within the school, if it’s emergent, it goes to the police. 
  • Updated Schedule – Future Meetings – topics are listed
  • Outreach – Buildings and Community

Questions/Comments on Presentation

  • JB: how we compare to other districts in terms of mental health, support, and SRO’s
    • Answer: qualitatively is that we are in a good place. Survey is in the works and data is being gathered in terms of buildings, district size, SRO numbers, and engagement at elementary level. Hopeful to have results by 9/26
    • From NYSIR rep: In terms of all safety it’s high up there in terms of threat assessment and behavioral assessment – we are one of the only districts that do it (out of more than 350). 
  • JB – asks about different numbers of mental health support at different school
    • Answer: based on need
  • JB – when thinking about what happens elsewhere – we say we have the “right stuff” in place but do we actually? How do we make sure we are maximally prepared?
    • Answer: safety layers – there are many layers of things being done on the preventative level and we practice and drill. Also debrief about what happens. Always looking at ways to improve and bringing in more resources to do better.
  • CW – do all BERT teams have classroom teacher representation
    • Answer: slide 7 does not include classroom teachers because they wouldn’t be available during an event but there are classroom teacher reps on the team in every building and they attend meetings in the meetings (on a voluntary basis).
  • CW – hide/run/fight. How are we training?
    • Answer: fight really means – what can I do to protect myself? Can be more for teachers rather than students.
  • NL – a lot more mental health concerns than ever. Why does Caroline not have anyone in regards to SEL
    • At K-5 level all teachers are trained in SEL (notetaker’s comment: at a previous board meeting, the presentation noted that the district is lacking in its implementation of SEL curriculum). 
    • A social worker would be assigned based on IEP or 504 needs (notetakers question: does this mean Caroline has 0 students with IEPs or 504s?)
    • A psychologist may also support students with higher level needs beyond classroom teacher
  • NL – in regards to DEI policy and regulation which specifies using an equity lens to make decisions. As we make safety decisions, is that happening?
    • Lisa Cutting response to say that they look across all subgroups within the data and look at qualitative data and have conversations
    • DL’H – Yes, an equity lens is being used as part of the decision making process.
  • JB – looking again at the chart of school mental health supports. This still means 1 school psychologist and 1 social worker per 600 students seems worrying. Notes that community resources are currently really low. Are we looking at community partners to beef up resources in the region?
    • Stacy Moulton – with BHSN we have doubled the amount of clinicians in the building – Caroline does have an onsite clinician (notetakers question – are they there full time?). We have also had an outside person traveling through buildings doing testing so our psychologists are more available for other services. 
  • CW – comment that she really appreciates the banner on the bottom of each slide.

Presentation 2: Legacy Project Update

  • Presented by: Bill McMordie, Principal, Saratoga Project Management, Inc., and John Onderdonk, Mosaic Associates, DPC will give an update on Phases 1 – 4, and the district wide upgrades that have started with the Legacy Project.
    • Discussing phases 1 – 4 (of 8) but represents about 60% of the whole project.
    • Details are on the linked slides – additional notes below

Questions/Comments on Presentation

  • NL – how much of the work that has been completed or awarded has been given to union jobs
    • Answer – that has never been tracked. He thinks some are straight union and some are hybrid and others are non.

Discussion: Consent Agenda

  • CW – clarifies that Tony will be NYSSBA delegate on behalf of the board
  • Passes unanimously 8-0

Public Comment Period #2

  • Carmela Frias – not here
  • Beth Arthur – (Kate Fitzpatrick reading on behalf of Beth who had to bring the baby home): in support of additional SROs. Says she is at risk of having her name slandered by speaking at the meeting. New reality of an educator – has to visualize how to protect her students in the event of an active shooter. The district where she teaches has recently added SROs. Is sickened that her children don’t have the same thing. And wants no more politicking but instead to take a common sense approach. 
  • Jennifer Taylor – things have been reactive. The board has discussed how motions have to be phrased. Board has agreed to wait for NYSIR report before anything will take any measures. Means parents have to wait months. NYSIR is looking to minimize liabilities however how can that mindset be the driving force between safety making decisions. Contradiction because they have chosen to wait when there are more officers ready and waiting to help. Says that principals have expressed there is a benefit in SROs. Are you being proactive? 
  • Kris DuBuque – In BSPa school district (his home district) he has/had 4 students – they have been exposed to SROs since elementary school. Officer Becker is a great part of that communication. SSCSD is blessed by having the sheriffs dept and the SSPD. (Notetaker’s comment: Kris is still claiming that he is a member of Temple Sinai, when that is no longer accurate). 
  • Charlie Samuels – Concerned about proposal to add 6 more SROs. Concerned about a possible $450,000 additional cost. Quotes a variety of research. Multiple reputable sources reaching similar conclusions may feel good but data shows that they don’t actually help. Feelings are not data and are not facts.
  • Jessica Todtenhagen – Supports SROs in elementary schools. Ask board members to listen and talk together. Notes that NYSIR reports won’t come out until the winter. Asks if they will survey teachers about whether they want SROs. Wants them to be transparent and answer questions and speak with parents and staff.
  • Hannah Hurley – Resident of the city. Concerned that SSPD is currently under investigation for civil rights violations. From experience it is hard to get the AG to pay attention and they are paying attention. There are other indications that SSPD are not meeting higher standards. Also one of the only local PDs that is NOT accredited from NYS. It notes effectiveness and professionality. The Sheriff’s office got this accreditation 30 years ago. Before allowing more police presence in our schools we need to know that they are meeting the highest standards. Also wonders how students feel in the presence of guns – she doesn’t feel comfortable.
  • Mark Crockett – SROs – idea that we are less safe with officers is a lie and the data is perverted. Stop vilifying the police. Stop telling minority students they are victims. Calling a police department racist is racist. SROs are a deterrent. They also add a valuable resource to the building. Nearly 1000 district members have signed a petition to have more SROs. Accuses board of wasting time
  • Deidre Chuckrow – Career prosecutor  – most of the time as a special victims prosecutor. Very comfortable with law enforcement. Asks them to do the research and make a non-emotional decision. The research says that adding SROs is not making our kids safer. The chance of a kid dying in an elementary school is 1 in 10 million. Connects it to stranger danger – we used to teach our kids to be afraid of strangers but we need to teach them how to be safe around people they know. We need to spend money on things that actually work – and teach our students how to be better citizens and manage their emotions. 
  • Deirdre Ladd – opposed to armed SROs.  More guns is not the answer. Leading cause of death for kids is a firearm. Make data driven decisions. More guns in the US than people by 20 fold. 
  • Paul Keller – States that having police officers in the schools from the beginning will solve racism. He thinks there are more opportunities to engage rather than simply opposed to or for SROs.
  • Michele King – she was absent from the summer board meetings but had friends attend on her behalf. She wants to talk about the bonds that students build with SROs. It allows students to feel comfortable in situations where political views from family members are telling them that police are bad. States that SROs help make our schools and our students “better well-rounded” in what they see and learn.
  • Sharon Dominguez – Shares a story from her childhood to illustrate a point of what we’re telling our students about how to feel about police officers. Says we should bridge that gap.
  • Alexus Brown – was a 2018 Saratoga grad, and says we all have a common goal, which is to protect students and the community from being victims of violence. We’re not addressing the root causes of the violence and trauma. The presence of police in school did not make her feel safer. There are much deeper issues than what police can put a bandaid on. White supremacy, misogyny, isolation are seeping in, and police don’t have the tools to address these issues.
  • Frazer Taylor – Says that the data against SROs is inappropriate and that the 2.83 times for rate of death is not causation (notetaker’s comment: no one claimed it was). Discusses how studies and research work, and says that citing data can be dangerous because you need to understand the data before using it to influence decisions (notetaker’s comment: the gold standard of studies – a double-blind random control study – is impossible because of the way schools work in in the U.S. and NYS, and also because it is impossible to randomly-assign a shooter and their motivation, and also is beyond unethical to send a shooter into a school).   

Agenda Planning

  • CW makes a motion to review the district’s mission statement to include the word “safe” somewhere in it. There is a lengthy and heated discussion of how effective motions should be made, what motions should consist of, and what is under the board’s purview to review. The process used to create the mission was discussed, including that it was an 8 month process that included feedback from a variety of stakeholders. Motion ends up getting revised to discuss the review of the district’s mission at the next meeting, and passes 6-2 (JE and TK opposed).
  • EB: stemming from the public comment regarding the tardiness practice at the HS, wants to make a motion to look at that. Discussion of how that motion should be made. Revised motion for Policy Committee to review the Attendance Policy to determine if it should be clarified to prevent practices like this from being implemented. Motion passes unanimously. 

Board Member Comments

  • DK – says thank you to the members of the public who spoke tonight and appreciates the discussion.
  • CW – says she will share NYSSBA’s report on school safety and reads a quote from a book about the Aurora, CO shooter that claims hate can’t be solved. 

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