School board hears student safety, security plans
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
January 19, 2013 12:16 AM | 1821 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — At its first meeting of the year, the Cherokee County Board of Education heard Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo’s plan to ensure student safety and security throughout the school district.

During the work session, Petruzielo gave an update to the board regarding the first meeting of the school safety and security ad hoc committee.

He announced the establishment of the committee Jan. 4 and committee members met for the first time Tuesday.

District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby gave an overview of the meeting, which included a summary of key events regarding CCSD safety and security measures, roles and responsibilities of the CCSD Police Department as well as pre-filed and anticipated state legislation pertaining to school safety.

At Tuesday’s meeting, committee members had agreed to participate in safety and security assessments of all school district campuses that will take place over the next month.

“Once those assessments are completed, the committee is going to meet again to review the results,” Jacoby said.

The subsequent meeting will also include a review of any additional state legislation regarding safety and security, and consideration of President Barack Obama’s executive actions announced Wednesday that include providing school officials with proper training for “active shooter situations,” providing incentives for schools to hire school resource officers and developing model emergency response plans for schools.

Board members were also provided with forms to suggest possible candidates to serve on future ad hoc committees.

Petruzielo also took the time to thank Sheriff Roger Garrison and all city police chiefs for participating on the committee.

He noted safety has never been an area that has been ignored during his time with the school system. Petruzielo said over the last 14 years, the district has gone from lacking basic necessities for school safety, such as school intrusion cameras, to being recognized as a model school district by Kenneth S. Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based national consulting firm specializing in school security.

“He actually spent a few days with us here and concluded based on his review of our safety initiatives that we were already a model for Georgia, if not for the nation, in terms of the things we were doing,” Petruzielo said.

Petruzielo said the district’s top-rating doesn’t mean he and district officials won’t look at additional security options.

“Clearly, if doing additional things means additional money, then we have a standing ground rule here: whoever comes up with the idea, they also need to come up with where the money can come from,” Petruzielo said.

LEGISLATIVE

CONCERNS

Additionally, Petruzielo produced a copy of the Georgia Education Coalition 2013 legislative program.

For the last six years, Cherokee has been a part of the GEC, which includes the largest school systems in the state, such as Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett and DeKalb.

The 2013 draft of the GEC legislative priorities includes two main points: to end state austerity budget cuts by allocating all statutorily-required funding to school districts through the Quality Basic Education formula and to educate legislators on the impact of increased costs to schools and taxpayers from the state health benefit plan.

Petruzielo also addressed Gov. Nathan Deal’s State of the State address made earlier Thursday, in which Deal made no commitment to fully fund QBE but rather to “modernize” the funding formula.

“I don’t know what that means,” Petruzielo said. “I guess we’ll find out as time goes along here, but if modernizing it means sending less money than the QBE requires then that would simply be a way to eliminate the terminology of austerity budget cuts and basically dumb down the amount of state money that everybody thinks you’re entitled to,” Petruzielo said.

NEW E.T. BOOTH MAY DELAY OPENING

District officials expressed concern that Manhattan Construction, general contractor for the E. T. Booth Middle School replacement, may not be able to finish the building before it’s slated to open to students this fall, but Petruzielo and district staff both believe the impact of a delayed opening will be minimal.

A contingency plan introduced during the work session anticipated the school opening will be postponed from August to January 2014.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brian Hightower said all three principals at E. T. Booth, Chapman and Etowah are aware of the delay.

Hightower said for the 2013-14 school year, the district plans to move forward with the consolidation of the Eagle Mountain schools to convert Booth into a sixth- through eighth-grade school. All fourth-graders at feeder elementary schools will stay at their respective elementary schools for fifth grade, as was determined in last fall’s public boundary hearings.

He said Chapman, which will conclude services this year as a fifth- and sixth-grade intermediate school, will be used to house the sixth grade, while seventh and eighth-grades will remain at Booth.

“What we would do is stage that in a matter that if we were able to snap our fingers and move over a weekend-thought we know it’s going to take longer than that — Booth would be ready to take in that,” Hightower said.

Board member Michael Geist asked if there would be any direct or indirect costs related to the change.

“We look like it’s break-even,” Hightower said, adding there may be a few additional costs. “It looks like it’s going to be very minimal.”

He added that the plan is till a contingency, as the general contractor has expressed they believe they can get the project done before school starts. He said district staff will have a better idea of whether to move forward with the plan in March.

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