After voting to request security resource officers be placed by the Newtown Police Department at each of the elementary schools in town for next school year, the Board of Education postponed a decision on its 2013-14 budget on Thursday, January 31, until a future meeting. That meeting could take place as soon as Tuesday, February 5.
Board of Education Chair Debbie Leidlein said she did not feel prepared to make a decision Thursday evening on the proposed budget.
“I don’t feel prepared, whatsoever, at this point in time to make any sort of adoption on the budget this evening,” said Ms Leidlein.
Other members agreed. Board Secretary Cody McCubbin said, with Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson unable to attend the meeting due to a death in her family, and Director of Facilities Gino Faiella out sick, he thought postponing was the best decision, noting questions still remained to ask both.
Ms Leidlein previously told her board members they have until February 14 to deliver their adopted budget to the Board of Finance.
The school board did take the time on Thursday to ask school principals, Director of Pupil Services Julie Haggard, and Business Director Ronald Bienkowski questions regarding the superintendent’s proposed budget and requested some information before its scheduled Tuesday meeting.
Earlier in the meeting, the school board voted unanimously to request school resource officers, armed police officers provided through the Newtown Police Department, be placed at each of the district’s elementary schools for the 2013-14 school year. The superintendent also requested eight security guards for the district, for a total of $165,000, in her proposed budget, which the school board has yet to deliberate and adopt.
Board member Richard Gaines, who has been working with a security committee formed to look at the district’s security needs, said the committee recommended the school board request the four school resource officers along with securing the eight security guard positions. A full report from the committee on safety, Mr Gaines said, will be brought before the school board at a later date.
During public participation residents stressed the importance of safety in Newtown’s schools. Two residents voiced concern that one school resource officer and one security officer would not be enough, and other speakers stressed the importance of looking at additional security options at the schools.
Head O’ Meadow Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Co-Presidents Laura Terry and Cynthia Iaropoli spoke at the meeting to inform the school board the school’s PTA voted unanimously earlier in the day to advocate for increasing the town and school budgets, “to improve security measures at all schools,” as Ms Terry said. “Also, the Head O’ Meadow PTA will advocate for increasing the town and Board of Education budgets to provide improved security measures, including but not limited to, two security officers for Head O’ Meadow School.”
Also during the meeting, the Board of Education voted unanimously to hire a displaced Monroe worker, who had been overseeing maintenance at Monroe’s Chalk Hill Middle School until Newtown was given use of the school for the Sandy Hook School community, as a part-time custodial worker at Chalk Hill.
The school board’s meeting was briefly interrupted twice during the evening. First when a security announcement was made that the Newtown Municipal Center was in “lockdown” due to two men wearing camouflage on the premises, and, second, when the announcement came that there had been no threat. The two men turned out to be hikers.