Concerns about safety in schools under review

By Lynn R. Parks

The Seaford School District is updating its safety processes as well as its code of conduct.

The district underwent a security audit yesterday, conducted by representatives of the states Department of Safety and Homeland Security. And acting superintendent Kevin Carson said during Monday nights school board meeting that he hopes to have a revised code of conduct to present to the board for consideration at its June meeting.

We want to get this in place this year so that our students are prepared for next year, Carson said. We will be communicating what we expect to our students and parents, so that everybody has a clear understanding of it.

The board meeting followed by four days a shooting near West Seaford Elementary School, during that schools annual Field Day.

We had a very difficult end of the week last week, Carson said. We had a drive-by shooting, and this happened in our little town of Seaford. Thats a sad situation and very disappointing. Yet its part of how our world is changing.

Carson praised school staff for making sure that all the students were safe, and the Seaford Police Department for its response.

West Seaford was locked down for 30 minutes following the shooting, which took place at around 1:30 Thursday afternoon. That was inconvenient for some, and for that Im sorry, Carson said. But you have to make decisions in the interest of safety. Would I make that same decision again? In a heartbeat.

Also on Monday night, the school board heard from two citizens who said that following visits to Seaford High School, they were concerned about lapses in security and student conduct there. April Willey and Debbie Hall visited the school at different times and both said that access to the school was too easy to obtain.

Hall said that she was taken on a tour of the school by a district employee, with whom she is a friend. Among the things she said she observed: students aimlessly walking the hallways, hanging out at lockers and talking on cell phones, and students leaving the cafeteria during lunchtime and then congregating in the hallways with no observable oversight. At a subsequent visit, during which she stayed outside the building, she saw students standing in exterior doorways, talking on cell phones and then leaving the building, she said.

During this time of transition, as Carson leaves and another superintendent is hired, will there be significant changes make to student discipline and school safety policies? she asked the board.

April Willey said that when she visited the school, she wasnt asked to sign in. I had free access to the high school, she said. In todays society, we cant allow that.

Willey said that she saw several students wandering the hallways. When she approached two boys to ask where they were going, they answered that they were on their way to baseball practice. Other students were less willing to answer her, she said.

At one point, she left the building and then turned around to enter through what is normally a locked door. Students there held the door open for her, she said. We have to change that, she said. It is not safe.

Willey also questioned, in the wake of Thursdays shooting, how safe the schools playgrounds are. These are the kinds of things that we have to give careful consideration, she said.

Both Hall and Willey said that they saw marked differences between student behavior in the Delaware New Tech section of the building and the traditional section. In the new section, everyone seemed to be where they should be, Hall said. It was a whole different environment in the old section.

Carson said that behavior standards throughout the school are the same. He added that he would share the womens observations with the high school administration.

I also have concerns about liability, he said. These students are under our care and we need to make sure that they are acting appropriately.

Board president Mike Smith said that the districts expectations of students are already covered in district policy. This has to do with the management of the school and is the responsibility of the leadership at the school, he said. I dont know that we need policy changes, but we definitely need to work with monitoring procedures and how the staff is implementing policies.

Citizen budget committee

By Lynn R. Parks

With a policy establishing a Citizen Budget Oversight Committee in place, the Seaford School District is inviting residents of the district to volunteer to join.

The school board Monday night voted unanimously to establish the committee, which is required by state law. If people really want to crunch the numbers and get into the whole budgeting process, this is their chance, said acting superintendent Kevin Carson. We are looking for community members who would like to do that.

The committee will meet three or four times a year, under the direction of district chief operating officer, Joanna Adams. Terms will be for two years. Members will receive at least two hours of training from the state on school funding issues.

The deadline for applying to be a member of the committee is tomorrow, May 16. For information, visit the district website, seafordbluejays.org, or call 629-4587.

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