Superintendent’s Message Regarding School Safety...
To the Westampton School Community,
It has been a week since the terrible events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Tragically, reports of such events are not new to us. For me, school security became a top priority all the way back in 1998, with the shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I was a building administrator at the time and it shook the school community to the core. Our doors were still unlocked back then, with a simple sign that said “Please report to the office”. Such simpler and safer times have been lost under so many tragic headlines, but the essence of a school - where children come to learn and grow while making friends and having fun - remains at the heart of what we do.
I write to you today because we want you to know that we are going to protect that essence, while also continuing to do all we can do to protect your children and our staff. School security is not only talked about by us in the days after a tragedy, but it is a top concern every day. I have been to numerous trainings on school safety, as have our other administrators. We have worked with the Police, the County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Department of Homeland Security in these trainings and other meetings with the sole purpose of making our schools as safe as they can be. We run regular drills - ones that you and I never would have dreamed of when we were kids - and they are taken seriously by staff and students.
I have meetings this week with our school administrative team and our Chief of Police. Both Chief Ent and I are new to our current positions, but we are not new to our responsibilities. While no one can make total guarantees against tragedy, we continue to prepare as best we can. We have enormous resources from State and Federal authorities to help us prepare.
School security is a complex issue and cannot be solved with one or two plans or programs and cannot only be about “reactive” measures. Locked doors and limited access are critical components. However, as noted by multiple studies on the subject, the best school security stems from a safe and supportive learning environment that has staff, students, and families feeling empowered to report any safety concerns. That environment, both in and out of school, also must focus on the social and emotional needs of students and not just their academic needs. This is the way to truly prevent tragedies.
I will keep you updated on our efforts. We thank you for your support.
Anthony Petruzzelli, Superintendent