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7-22-13 Education Issues in the News
Star Ledger - Schools beef up security after Newtown; cameras, panic buttons installed

NJ Spotlight - Newark’s School Chief Is Up for Her Next Performance Bonus…Cami Anderson’s contract enters third year of potentially earning extra pay of as much as $50,000.

Star Ledger - Schools beef up security after Newtown; cameras, panic buttons installed

By Jeanette Rundquist/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger updated July 22, 2013 at 8:13 AM

"The mind-set now is security is at the forefront"

Maintenance workers Freddy Moreno, left, and Abilio Bagagem, right, build a vestibule at Audrey W. Clark Elementary School in Long Branch to improve security. Schools across NJ are taking steps to improve security, spurred by concern after Newtown.Patti Sapone/The Star-Ledger 

When North Brunswick students return to school in September, retired police officers will patrol the halls in each of the township’s six schools.

In Edison, school principals will carry "mobile panic buttons" to contact police in an emergency. The number of video cameras in the township’s two high schools will more than triple.

And Bridgewater and Westfield students will see more police presence in the high schools. School officials in both towns decided to hire armed "school resource officers."

In the seven months since a gunman burst into an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children and six educators before taking his own life, stunned school officials have gone through waves of soul-searching and security evaluation.

Many New Jersey districts beefed up security immediately, meeting with police to evaluate preparedness, attending training sessions and hardening rules for entering the building, even for parents dropping off a forgotten lunch.

Now, with another school year approaching, many are spending the quiet summer months tightening security again. Districts are building vestibules and doors to control access better, installing high-tech surveillance cameras, covering windows with security-enhancing film that makes them harder to smash, and debating adding police officers or other armed security personnel.

"Everyone had a renewed focus on security after Newtown. This particular incident happened to deal with very small children, and I think that really shook people," said Edison school superintendent Richard O’Malley.

Changes in Edison, which also was rattled by several bomb threats this spring, include requiring that every exterior school door is checked three times per day and installing video cameras and monitoring systems to cover every corner in the high schools. The district also will hire an additional crisis counselor to help with behavior or mental health issues, O’Malley said.

Though some teachers or students might feel uneasy being watched every minute, J.P. Stevens High School history teacher John Peach said most seem to support it.

"It’s great," Peach said. "Edison is responding the best way you can."

STRONG SECURITY LAWS

State Department of Education officials say New Jersey already has some of the strongest security laws in the country. Two months before the Newtown shootings, the state began requiring that every district have a "school safety plan" addressing 91 core items, plus monthly drills.

In the months since, the department has staged numerous training sessions and conducted 100 unannounced drills at school districts. More surprise drills will come this year.

The state does not collect data on when or how many districts have upgraded security, but an anecdotal survey reveals a flurry of activity.

In Bayonne, children no longer wait outside in the morning. Instead, kids enter as soon as they arrive, "to get them into the safety of the building," assistant superintendent Leo Smith said.

The Long Branch School District underwent a full security audit and added vestibules to schools this summer.

"The mind-set now is security is at the forefront," superintendent Michael Salvatore said. "We’re not saying we’re not focused on curriculum and instruction, teaching and learning. We’re just saying we realize that if schools aren’t safe and secure, it doesn’t matter what those other things produce."

In many communities, the thought of armed security once might have been anathema. But since Newtown, cautious steps are being taken.

FINANCIAL COSTS

In Berkeley Township, Ocean County, the school board earlier this year put armed, off-duty police in each of the four schools, hiring them at a reduced overtime rate.

The police will return in September, at a cost of $150,000 this school year. The district and police department also applied for grant funding.

"People definitely feel more comfortable when they see that police car out front," said superintendent James Roselli, who recently received an award from the national School Safety Advocacy Council. "Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. I just know our community feels much safer."

Gov. Chris Christie has spoken against putting armed officers in schools, pointing out in March that if the Newtown gunman saw an armed officer at one door he could have gone through another.

"Where do we stop it? Do we put an armed guard at every door of every school?" Christie asked. "What’s that do to the learning atmosphere? What’s the expense on top of it?"

He said he would leave the decision to individual districts, however.

The New Jersey School Boards Association, which plans to survey districts on security, said finances can be an issue.

The state will allocate $195.5 million among its roughly 600 districts for security this school year, up about 2.5 percent.

East Brunswick interim superintendent Patrick Piegari, a former Middlesex County executive county school superintendent, agreed the cost of armed officers is an issue — as well as "general uncomfortableness with the fact we have to have armed individuals in our schools."

Law enforcement experts draw a distinction between security guards and school resource officers, who are sworn, specially trained police under the authority of a police chief.

In the Bridgewater-Raritan district, the schools are paying for a second school resource officer; the township already pays for one. Acting superintendent Cheryl Dyer said it will cost an extra $88,200 this school year.

The new officer will be based at Bridgewater-Raritan High School but used districtwide. Dyer said the high school principal asked for additional security as a "proactive" measure in part because of the school’s open campus-style layout.

North Brunswick superintendent Brian Zychowski said his district would "love" school resource officers, but municipal budget cuts eliminated three officers some time ago.

His district is hiring six retired police officers, one for each school, at a cost of $35,000 apiece.

The officers won’t carry guns to start, Zychowski said, but that may change.

"We want to see that the officers are acclimated with the school climate, see how things are transitioning, then make a decision," Zychowski said. He said a "community safety committee" voted to allow the officers to carry guns, but the school board opted to monitor the change first.

He said the district is not considering arming principals and teachers, which some schools in other states allow.

"We’re not even near that level," Zychowski said. "I haven’t heard anyone in New Jersey talk about that seriously."

NJ Spotlight - Newark’s School Chief Is Up for Her Next Performance Bonus…Cami Anderson’s contract enters third year of potentially earning extra pay of as much as $50,000.

John Mooney | July 22, 2013

 

The potentially handsome bonuses are based on professional goals agreed upon based on her own initiatives and the performance of Newark schools, part of a contract she reached with the Christie administration in 2011.

In the first year, she hit six of seven performance benchmarks and won a $41,085 bonus on top of her $247,500 base salary, according to the state.

In the year that just ended, at least four qualitative measures appear to have been met, including completion of the new teacher contract, which includes its own performance bonuses for teachers. The other three quantitative goals are tied directly to student test scores, which have not yet been returned to the district, officials said.

In each of the three years, the four qualitative measures together amounted to a 10 percent bonus, and the three quantitative ones account for another 10 percent. Under the contract, her base salary does not change.

This next year will be a critical one. It is the final year in Anderson’s existing deal and the year in which she has said she wants to revamp the way schools are held accountable and how students choose their schools.

Anderson declined to talk in detail about the performance bonuses or the current negotiations until the goals are agreed upon. Late yesterday, she said in an email: “The summer is a critical time to assess goals and progress - and to work collaboratively to set new goals.”

“I am pleased with how much we have accomplished but remain humbled by how much there is to do to ensure every student in Newark is in a school that puts them on the path to success,” she wrote.

State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf would only say, “We are in those negotiations now.”

But Cerf left little doubt that he is satisfied with Anderson’s overall performance so far, and indicated she is likely to see her contract renewed when it expires on June 30, 2014. Under the contract, the administration must notify Anderson by Sept. 1 of this year if her contract is not going to be renewed.

“I think she is doing an outstanding job,” Cerf said in an interview last week. “In every respect, she’s doing outstanding work.”

Asked specifically whether he expected to notify Anderson in the next month that she would not be renewed, he replied: “I have every expectation that she will continue her great work in Newark for years to come.”

The discussions and decisions on Anderson’s future come at a time when the state’s oversight of the district, as well as Anderson’s tenure, have been under considerable fire.

The district’s local advisory board and the city’s Municipal Council have both given Anderson a vote of no confidence, and an appeals court just rejected an attempt by the local board to force the return of key controls over the city’s schools.

However, the Christie administration has agreed to return some fiscal controls, a process that will require separate negotiations set to begin this week.

Local board President Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson last week received Anderson’s performance goals for the second year. She also received a summary of the district’s new performance reports for schools that puts them into different categories, ranging from “low” to “on the move” to “good” to “great.”

The performance reports include charter schools. Anderson has said that holding those schools equally accountable is another of her goals. Last month, she rolled out an initiative called “One Newark” that will make the district the central place where students will choose whether to attend traditional or charter schools.

Following is a list of Anderson’s first-year goals. She achieved all but the third one, which pertained to math scores, according to the state.

·         The percent of Newark high school students scoring proficient or better on either the math or language sections of the High School Proficiency Assessment rises 3 percent.

·         The percent of all students grades 3-8 who are not proficient in language arts drops 2 percent and/or the average language arts score increases.

·         The percent of all students grades 3-8 who are not proficient in math drops 2 percent and/or the average math score increases.

·         Teacher evaluation pilot, including survey of participating schools and recommendations for improvement.

·         Teacher quality initiative, including summary of training and coaching and baseline teacher survey.

·         Progress reports for every school, including training on how to interpret them.

·         Adoption of “college-ready” standards, including implementation plan for Common Core State Standards and a new college-ready assessment.

Anderson second-year goals, which will be the basis for determining her next bonus, are part of a broader evaluation that includes 18 measures in all. The first four are qualitative, and the next three are quantitative. She must achieve each by this month to receive the corresponding bonus.

·         Each K-8 and high school has “college ready” student achievement targets based on baseline ACT and “student growth percentile” (SGP) results

·         User-friendly, public, system-wide (Newark Public Schools and charter) summary of student achievement including SGP

·         Breakthrough contract with best-in-class elements on merit pay, turnaround provisions, waivers, extended day, and flexibility

·         New Principal Evaluation Tool, with student achievement targets and transformational leader framework

·         Renew Schools see language arts scale scores and/or SGP increase as compared to the schools they replaced

·         At least one more K-8 school achieves “on the move” status

·         At least on more K-8 school is “good”

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828



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