I attended the 2-hour community meeting this week on school safety. The current safety procedures and planned enhancements were presented by Kevin Buraks, president of the T/E School Board, Tredyffrin Police Supt. Andy Giaimo, Easttown Police Chief David Obzud, the District’s architect Tom Daley, TESD Supt. Dan Waters, TESD Business Manager Art McDonnell and head of TESD Safety Committee (and Vice Principal of Conestoga HS) Andrew Phillips.
There was much discussion from the various panel members about the need to ‘harden’ the schools – to make it more difficult for entry into the schools. Some of the safety changes expected to be in place by the end of January include a new buzzer system in each of the schools. After school starts each day, all doors will be locked and visitors to the schools must be ‘buzzed-in’. Visitors to the schools will now be required to show photo IDs. Additional security cameras are to be installed at each school. Glass at the front entrance of each school will be equipped with a 3M safety and security film. This durable safety film is impact-resistant, making it much more difficult for bullet penetration.
Rather than audience members directly asking questions of the panel, questions were written on index cards. McDonnell grouped the questions and during the last half of the meeting asked the panel members to respond to the questions. Many questions had to do with the safety of the children outside of the school buildings – recess on the playground, field trips, etc. in addition to the student’s safety before and after school in the buildings. Although the questions were wide-ranging, there was no discussion of ‘arming’ the teachers and or administration. Clearly, all questions were not asked, there was a gentleman behind me in the audience who complained 3 times to one of the runners picking up the index card, that his question had not been asked of the panel. Using the index cards as the means to ask questions controlled which questions would be answered.
Personally, the bombshell of the evening came towards the end of the meeting. TESD Supt. Dan Waters spoke of hiring a safety consultant to review the current security of the District. Based on the Tredyffrin’s recent consulting study to review its police department which cost the taxpayers $49K, just hearing the word ‘consultant’ sends up a red flag. But in the case of the school district, the ‘bigger’ red flag was who Waters named as the District’s safety consultant … Tredyffrin’s former police chief Andy Chambers! Waters stated that he had a personal relationship with Chambers, having worked with him for 25 years and that Chambers knew the school buildings and would not need to be brought up to speed as other possible consultants. Doesn’t Dan Waters and the School Board recall the controversy surrounding Chambers and his departure from Tredyffrin’s Police Department?
To refresh everyone’s memory — In December 2011, the former police chief Andy Chambers was suspended for 4 days as a result of allowing his 16-year old son to drive a township police car which was subsequently involved in an accident in November 2011. Chambers failed to report the vehicle accident to the BoS – the information was leaked to the supervisors a month later through an anonymous tip. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Chambers ultimately retired while serving his suspension. To say that Chambers left Tredyffrin Township Police Department ‘under a dark cloud’ would be quite an understatement!
Given the background of Chamber’s departure from Tredyffrin’s police department, why would the school district want to invite the controversy that comes with his hiring as a safety consultant? Just because Waters has a personal relationship of 25 years with Chambers should not be ‘reason enough’ for his hiring as a consultant. The focus needs to be our children and keeping them safe, not the additional drama and controversy that a consulting contract with Chambers may present.