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WACS school board discusses response to recent student threat

March 24, 2016
By David Prenatt (editorial@westfieldrepublican.com) , Westfield Republican

Westfield Academy and Central School Superintendent David Davison will meet with the school faculty and staff to get their feedback on the district's handling of the student threat that was made on March 1, board members learned at their March 14 meeting.

Many parents of Westfield students have expressed concerns regarding the district's handling of the crisis. Some parents attended the board meeting to share their feelings.

Davison noted at the meeting that the district was informed by police that a student had made comments that could constitute a threat to the safety of the school. The student's comments had been reported to the police about 9 a.m. and the district was contacted at approximately 4 p.m. after the police had conducted an investigation.

Article Photos

Photos by David Prenatt
Nate Scriven voices his thoughts about the manner in which a safety issue was handled by WACS officials, during a March 14 Board of Education meeting.

The comments raised concerns about the safety of a concert that was scheduled for 7 p.m. that evening, as well as for school the following day.

Although police stated early Wednesday morning that the comments made were not intended to be a credible threat, "we discussed doing a parent broadcast with authorities," Davison said. The police said "the school is safe."

School officials decided that a parent broadcast was not needed and that by having an officer on site, anxiety would be lessened, Davison said. In hindsight, the presence of law enforcement in the building actually heightened anxiety, he added.

Board President Steve Cockram noted "This is another example of how social media has driven people's perceptions of what's going on."

"Parents removed students from school because of Facebook postings," said Davison.

Karen Belcher, whose daughter is a senior at the school, said, "As a parent, on March 2nd and 3rd, we were nervous, we were scared. There has to be more communication to parents."

Alicia Poliano, who has several children attending Westfield schools, said "It's been very frustrating as a parent to not get answers and not get information." Referring to the ease with which she believed people entered the school for the concert on March 1, she added, "I'm hoping that one of the things that will be addressed will be the safety of the building."

Police Officer Nate Scriven told board members and parents that "They could have cancelled school. I'm not going to condemn the actions of the school. I've actually been through this in a different jurisdiction." He added, "I think if the broadcast was made earlier, at least parents would have known there was no credible threat and that there would be law enforcement in the building."

"We treat all possible threats seriously. Each incident is different. There isn't really a cookie cutter approach," Davison said. "I would really like to thank the Westfield Police Department," he added.

In other business, School business Official Anthony Montoro presented the proposed 2016-17 budget. Montoro discussed components of the assigned fund balance, and told board members that there would be greater appropriations this year than in previous years. "This is to manage debt," he said.

Elementary School Principal Shanda Duclon told board members that for kindergarten through 5th grade, "We've added curriculum support through additional instructional materials for the 2016-17 school year."

Superintendent Davison told board members that the New York State Assembly has proposed its 2016-17 budget with an estimated increase in aid of $2.1 billion. He said that legislators pledge to end the gap elimination adjustment this year.

The board discussed the annual Senior Citizens' Breakfast, which will be held on Thursday, May 5. Members voted to once again present a Friend to Education Award; Davison asked that nominations be sent to board member Phyllis Hagen.

The board discussed the first reading of Policy 6161, which deals with Conference and Travel Expense Reimbursement. Davison and Cockram reviewed the requirements for legitimate receipts.

 
 
 

 

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