HOWELL – To start the recent Board of Education meeting, board members stood and bowed their heads in a moment of silence to honor the 17 lives lost in the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Board president Timothy O’Brien made a point of mentioning how the tragedy has profoundly affected each and every member of the board.
“We, as a nation, have to come together and find solutions,” to help keep our students safe, said O’Brien.
In addition to potentially increasing safety measures, he noted that it would also help to assist those in crisis so that they don’t take any more lives, addressing the mental health issues relevant to the incident in Parkland.
“Culture is critical,” he said. O’Brien remarked that he believed working on improving our culture and increasing the safety and comfort of our environment would be beneficial.
He explained that if the board focused on “increasing the role of empathy and compassion,” in society, it would help reinforce the sense of community that is essential.
“We will also look for ways to enhance and protect those people we serve, the children,” he added.
Resident Jacqueline Everitt stood up during public comment to suggest a few solutions to increase safety measures in the schools. She suggested that the board could look into installing remote-controlled door locks or fiberglass door protectors in the schools, although they are admittedly quite expensive.
Everitt mentioned that she has more than one child in the Howell Township school system, so the safety of the students is of personal concern to her.
O’Brien also noted that the board has been blessed with a good relationship and partnership with the Howell Township Police Department.
In fact, the HTPD hosted a School Safety Forum at Middle School North on Feb. 27 for parents of the district to learn about the safety measures implemented by the schools and police as well as express concerns and interact with the officers.
HTPD Chief Andrew Kudrick posted a statement on the day of the Parkland shooting on Facebook that read:
“Not only as the police chief, but as a parent, my heart hurts. Sadly though, we see this too often. I can absolutely state, with the utmost certainty, the relationship and partnership between our police department and both school districts is one that is highly committed to protecting our children and staff.
“We have security measures in place that include uniformed presence inside our schools, visible patrols both stationary and random, regular drills, direct radio contact with school administration and central police communication, both technical and tactical equipment and advanced weapons assigned to our officers, and frequent contact between Howell Schools Superintendent Isola, Howell BOE President O’ Brien, Howell High School Principal Braverman and my staff…I can speak on their behalf with the utmost confidence, and all of you can be reassured, we constantly are reviewing and implementing security measures to prevent such a tragedy.
“However, we cannot do it by ourselves. This must be a collaborative effort amongst all of us. In most cases, there were warning signs. Social media seems to be the most apparent. Please, talk to your children. We all have that “sixth sense.” If you see something, say something! Don’t be that person after the fact that realizes you could have prevented people from dying. This is the reality we live in.”
Chief Kudrick ended his statement noting that anyone can contact him with questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.