Sent via SchoolMessenger on June 8, 2022
In the wake of the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, our administrators have responded to a few questions from parents regarding emergency preparedness and thought it might be helpful to share this information with all families.
Over the past decade, with the support of our community, the South Orangetown Central School District has invested in a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to developing its safety and security infrastructure and creating supports and programming which promote an inclusive school culture and address student mental health needs. Here are key areas that have been part of our focus:
Strengthening Safety and Security Infrastructure
- All SOCSD schools have on-site security throughout the school year. The majority of our school-based security guards possess law enforcement experience.
- In 2018, SOCSD partnered with the Town of Orangetown and Orangetown Police Department to increase its School Resource Officer position from a part-time position shared with a neighboring district to a dedicated, full-time position at SOCSD.
- In 2019, SOCSD created its Director of Safety, Security and Compliance position to develop and maintain a comprehensive safety and security program that incorporates training, related building upgrades/maintenance, effective protocols for emergency management, compliance and reporting, and communication systems.
- To enhance building security during the school day, our elementary schools redesigned their afternoon pickup processes; William O. Schaefer Elementary School and South Orangetown Middle School shifted lunch drop-off and student sign-outs to their respective lobbies; and, TZHS reinstated the enforcement of its policy prohibiting food delivery during school hours. We continually review and refine these processes.
- The District also implemented a digital visitor management system to screen visitors, contractors and volunteers entering our buildings during the school day. The system checks the visitor’s name and date of birth from their government-issued ID for comparison with its own aggregated database of official sex offender registries from all 50 states, as well as court-issued custodial orders, restraining orders and other custom alerts as established by the District.
- Reconfiguration of the main entrance lobbies and security booths at William O. Schaefer Elementary School (2019) and South Orangetown Middle School (2020). Redesign of the Cottage Lane Elementary School entrance was included in the voter-approved Capital Improvements Project and is slated for construction in Summer 2023.
- Voter-approved upgrades to the public address/lockdown systems at all four schools are scheduled for Summer 2023.
- Throughout each school year, our schools and District administrators hold a variety of safety drills in collaboration with the Orangetown Police Department, local fire departments, the South Orangetown Ambulance Corps and Rockland BOCES Health & Safety Team.
Prioritizing School Culture and Student Mental Health
- In 2014, SOMS health education teacher Vickie Shaw and Library Media Specialist Kimberlee Landgraff developed the “Help Card,” a tool for middle school students to decrease the stigma of asking for help. The initiative was expanded to all four schools and the district-wide “Help Card” campaign is implemented in October of each school year. In addition to the Help Card, SOCSD introduced Anonymous Alerts, a free app to report bullying, harassment and/or hazing, in 2018. A link is posted at the top of the District and school homepages; users may also download the mobile app from the App Store or Google Play.
- In 2018, SOCSD transitioned its special education department to a pupil personnel services model designed to serve all students by encompassing school counseling, psychology, social work, nursing, special education and a Family Engagement Center. Each school has a dedicated School Support Team composed of professionals who deliver a variety of services which include the academic and social-emotional development of students in the context of college and career readiness, mental health and substance use intervention, and connecting families with community resources to meet their needs.
- The integration of social emotional learning into the school day also began in 2018, through work with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The focus of this effort has been on recognizing emotions in one’s self and others, understanding causes and consequences of emotions, building vocabulary for describing emotions, expressing emotions in ways that are productive and appropriate; and, learning self-regulation strategies to manage feelings. Since then, SEL work has been extended to the secondary schools.
Engaging Parents as Informed Partners
To ensure that parents are informed about safety procedures, information is mailed to families at the start of each school year. (View the 2021-22 publication here). Included are communication procedures and an urgent request to help protect our students and staff by not sharing information regarding safety procedures on social media.
Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services Karen Tesik, Ed.D. and Director of Safety, Security and Compliance John Gulino will provide a brief overview of District safety and prevention protocols at the June 16 Board of Education meeting in the South Orangetown Middle School library. The meeting will begin at 7:30PM. Any questions asked during the public commentary period regarding the presentation will be responded to in the days following the meeting.