March 5, 2018
Dear Port Chester Parents and Community Members:
There are two issues about which I am writing to you.
School Security and the Parkland Tragedy
Your children’s safety and well-being rank foremost in our thinking, planning, and interactions every day. As we reflect upon the recent tragedy that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, I wish to reassure you that safety is a District priority at all times. We continually refine our emergency plans with multiple levels of safety teams, safety plans, drills coordinated with law enforcement, and other proactive measures. At the same time, we have brought additional counselors into our schools to help monitor the health and well-being of our children. After the Sandy Hook tragedy in Connecticut in 2012, we conducted an intensive review of our security systems that resulted in the utilization of security staff greeters at every building in our district, upgrading of surveillance systems, installation of exit door alarms, installation of single point entries at each school, and other security measures.
While our Emergency Plans are not public documents for security reasons, rest assured that we continually work closely with local law enforcement to update our emergency measures and emergency management techniques. You can find additional information about Emergency Plans at the New York State Education Department’s website with their Q and A on School Emergency Response Planning. When speaking with children about their safety in school, I would encourage you to examine this link, talking to children about violence as an additional resource.
Please remember the adage, “If you see something, say something”. It is critically important that you bring anything that appears out of the ordinary to the immediate attention of school and law enforcement authorities. At the same time please regularly review the safety rules with your children that they need to follow as to go to and from school.
Closing of the JFK Early Learning Center
On February 27, 2018, the Board of Education voted to close the JFK Early Center in the Holy Rosary School at the end of the current school year. I would recommend that you watch our Board of Education meeting posted on our website and to review the presentation from that meeting at this link.
Of the many valid reasons to close ELC at this time, it’s important to focus on the financial considerations as we are facing nearly a $4 million budget deficit for the 2018-19 school year. We shall be explaining in the near future just exactly how closing ELC will affect the other elementary schools but in the meantime, note that it means at least the loss of our elementary school libraries, computer labs, and science labs until sufficient space can be provided elsewhere to restore these learning areas. These spaces will be used for the grades K and 1 students formerly housed at ELC.
Part of the projected $4 million deficit is fueled by our need to fund the rental of emergency scaffolding at PCMS at a cost of $30 thousand per month, the nearly $1 million cost for setting up the scaffolding, and a shortfall of projected state aid from NYS. It is extremely important that you take a moment to sign our online petition that urges our legislators to restore our Foundation Aid funding. With only about 700 signatures as of this writing, it is critical that we collect hundreds more by your signing this petition. Budget negotiations in Albany end in just a few weeks so signing now and getting our voices heard in Albany are critical!
On March 13, 2018, 6 p.m. in the Middle School auditorium, the Board of Education will be discussing ways to resolve the PCMS repair issues and how to eventually provide space so elementary libraries and science and computer labs can reopen. Please come to the meeting if you can, review the materials to which I have provided links, and stay well-informed!
Edward A. KIiszus, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools