Pattye Benson

Community Matters

School Safety … An ongoing priority for Tredyffrin Twp Police Superintendent Anthony Giaimo

Tredyffrin Police Superintendent Anthony Giaimo did not need the Sandy Hook shootings to prioritize school safety.

However, if you attended, or watched the TESD special safety meeting, or the District’s Finance or regular school board meetings, you may have come away with the mistaken impression that the Tredyffrin Police Department is only peripherally involved in the school safety process. Sure, T/E Superintendent Waters and Kevin Buraks, president of the school board spoke of the good working relationship with the police departments (Tredyffrin and Easttown). Waters and Buraks rationalized the hiring of Andy Chambers as District’s safety consultant because (1) need to act quickly following Sandy Hook; (2) Chambers knew the District buildings and (3) he was a lot cheaper ($125/hr.) than previous safety consultants. At the last school board meeting, someone mentioned the District had previously spent $100K for a safety consultant post-Columbine.

Beyond the obvious transparent issues that accompanied the hiring of Chambers, I could not help but wonder how this safety consultant was going to work with current police staff, given the reasons behind his departure from Tredyffrin. I also could not understand what Chambers was going ‘to do’ for the District that experienced Tredyffrin Police Supt. Anthony Giaimo and Easttown Police Chief David Obzud, and their respective departments. were not already doing.

For those like me, that may have been confused about ‘who knew what and when’ in regards to the school safety situation and Chambers hiring by the District, I clarified some of these points with Giaimo today.

Fact: Giaimo has 23+ years of experience with the Tredyffrin Township Police Department.

Fact: Neither Dr. Waters nor the school board consulted Giaimo before hiring Chambers. Giaimo was told a couple of hours before the announcement at the District safety meeting.

Fact: The school ‘hardening’ suggestions that the District is implementing were the personal recommendations of Giaimo, including the notification panic buttons, buzzer system and the ballistic film on windows and doors.

Fact: Giaimo has been actively involved in developing a crisis plan with administrators of each school and doing building safety assessment on District schools (as well as private and nursery schools). According to Giaimo, school safety has been an ongoing priority of his, not just post-Sandy Hook.

Fact: Waters and the District were fully aware of Giaimo’s school safety and crisis plan – prior to the hiring of Chambers.

Fact: There has not been a District school safety meeting between Giaimo and Chambers.

Fact: It is unclear how Chambers efforts as the District’s safety consultant will differ from efforts currently performed by Easttown and Tredyffrin Township Police Departments.

Fact: Representatives from the Police Department are on the District safety committee.

Fact: The Board of Supervisors has not authorized hiring of 2 additional police officers as recommended by ICMO consultants and approved in the 2013 township budget

School safety has been an ongoing priority for Giaimo and he has been very proactive in his approach since becoming Superintendent. He has a good working relationship with Easttown Police Chief Ozbud and the two are committed to coordinating school safety response, regardless of which township the school is located.

I don’t want to ‘beat a dead horse’ over the hiring of Andy Chambers; I accept the Board approved his hiring. However, it remains unclear to me what additional safety information the District will receive as a result of Chambers’ hiring. Without a ‘scope of work’, it just appears that Chambers could be performing a duplication of effort at the expense of the taxpayers. It is my understanding that the school district will include Giaimo and Ozbud in any school safety decisions based on Chambers’ recommendations.

Our police superintendent has the safety of our children as a continuing priority, not just because of Sandy Hook. Regardless of the number of Tredyffrin Police Department officers, Giaimo remains committed to school district safety. However, more important than ever, providing safety requires adequate police department staffing. If you agree, I strongly suggest attending Mondays Board of Supervisors meeting. (Click here for agenda). The Board of Supervisors has not authorized the two additional police officers recommended by the police department consultants, ICMA and approved in the 2013 township budget.

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  1. No longer a township resident, I just want to weigh in here in response to the hiring of consultants. I was on the board at the time of Columbine, and there was no paid consultant, much less one paid $100,000.
    The District included safety in our Strategic Planning process and there was the start of a school safety committee. In fact, many of the class size initiatives that came out of Kids Count and Kevin’s campaign were directly influenced by the fear of “supersizing” our schools and kids falling through the cracks. Even back then, we all knew the issue was mental health, not facilities.
    Current board member Betsy Fadem was a member of that committee prior to her board service. Current TTDem Chair Dariel Jamiesen was on the Strategic Planning Steering committee. I was also on the SP committee and I was on the School board at the time. (John loves to say it’s always about my time….here, it is. ) The issues of Columbine were factored in when we renovated Conestoga. If there was ever any consultant hired, it might have been after the Virginia Tech shooting, as I recall that Public Information became a major issue about how to contact parents and get word out. Debbie Bookstaber was uniquely qualified to direct that effort and I recall a few committee meetings I attended where communication options were under discussion.
    But one comment left: Tredyffrin township — no decision made on hiring– criticized. TESD – decision made to hire – criticized. Not sure any of us are trusting or patient enough to do it any way but our own. As Kevin said earlier — this horse isn’t just beaten, it’s glue.
    Good luck!

    1. Andrea, I actually believe that it was Kevin Grewell who spoke of the $100K consultant at the TESD meeting. If he is reading CM, perhaps he will clarify. I

      f the township supervisors or the school board hire consultants, (1) I believe the individuals and/or companies need to be completely vetted before signing the contract, (2) there needs to be a ‘scope of work’ included with the hiring and (3) an expectation that the results would be useful. If taxpayer dollars are to be spent, shouldn’t there be an expectation for transparency and accountability?

      1. Kevin’s performance was more akin to bootlicking and shoe shining. To break down the cost of Chambers as being someting like .000125% of the budget completely missed the point. Here, Grewell, like the Board and like Waters continually ignores the circumstances upon which Chambers was effctively fired from the TPD. He was allowed to retire. That, in my opinion, was a mistake. We talk about zero tolerance in the schools. It seems to me that Waters, the Board and former Board members are quite tolerant of bad behavior, if not downright rewarding it.

        In all seriousness, I’m inferring from your article that there is no value-add with Chambers. In other words, there is NOTHING that Chambers brings to the table that either has not already or could be provided by the EPD or TPD.

        Another important point. Waters and teh Board were absolutely required to consult Giamo because of the reasons for Chambers’ dismissal from the TPD.

        This is what is clear to me:

        1. The Board and Waters have completely misrepresented TPD’s support of and involvment in the process.

        2. The Board and Waters do not value the TPD, for if they did, they would not have gone the lengths to hid from the public, the Chambers hire.

        Here are some other facts:

        – The buzzer system is pure bunk for several reasons.

        It’s at best, a glorified door bell. There is at least one door at the high school that is ALWAYS unlocked for students. The buzzer system is a solution that is a least common denomonator amongst the high school, middle school and elementary school buildings. These builds are no better prepared today than they were prior to Sandy Hook.

        The buzzer system is really nothing more than a step. One is not truly authenticated or authorized with such a device. The scenario does not scale. Get 10 or so people at the door, they are not going to be buzzed in separately. It’s too impractical. It’s single threaded solution that does not scale. It’s actually a separate issue than “hardening” the schools. There are really two distinct things. One is ingress management as well as managing who is in the building amongst the population of people that have cause to be in the building at any given time during the day. This would include staff, students and administration. Everybody helse is a “guest” in the building and like all guests, they have to be both authorized and authenticated. It’s really no differnt than marshalling access to a website, at least in concept. That’s why a real solution involves card access where you have to swipe in. In those cases, you know amongst the non-guests who is/is not in the building. With simple RF technology, a person who does not have an RF device on them who pass through a hallway, that can trigger an alarm. The question is whether you have to go to those lengths. I doubt seriously that those kinds of measures were discussed. With today’s technology, those solutions are actually not that expensive. The bigger point is that the buzzer is nothing more than a PR move. It’s already been largely bypassed in some cases. And of course, if you walk into the building before 7:20, you don’t have to buzz in. And the students NEVER have to buzz in. That means if you look like a student (and students don’t wear ID’s), you could easily “hack” your way in.

        It’s very clear that given the circumstnaces, this was nothing more than old fashioned cronyism. Nobody can point to qualfiications that Chambers has that makes him UNIQUELY QUALIFIED such that his hire was so important that we had to act right away lest some other school system lures him away.

        It is so clear that Waters needed “his guy” to be around to under take an “assessment”. What exactly is an “assessment”? Is it anything more or different that what’s been done already.

        It’s all a disgrace.

  2. Tell us how you really feel?

    How safe do you feel in the township? Do you lock your doors every day? Do you carry a gun? Do you want to turn schools into an armed camp? If 2 police eliminate overtime, then isn’t overtime less expensive, since it doesn’t cost 40 years of pension and benefits?

    I don’t care who said what….Chambers was a bad decision but it was an expedient one. I don’t get to agree with everything, and from the tepid response outside this blog, others are not quite as worked up.
    Not hiring the extra police remains to be seen, but the cost of labor is never good to take on, especially if you are relying on the expertise of the consultant to validate the hire. This notion of “taxpayer money” is a flimsy argument when the majority of taxpayers don’t seem to have the same level of angst.

    And TR — I posted as Township Reader for a long time. I thought it was ironic that you took up those initials in light of our routine disagreements. You know what they say about imitation….

    And for those who want to hack their way into Conestoga or any other school — of course you can. You can also have ID and credentials and get buzzed in…and then go ballistic. Maybe we should have fingerprint systems — that’s how the staff log in at Penn Radnor now. Cost of health care?

    I think cronyism here is more about comfort level and getting information in a timely fashion. Dr. Waters clearly made a choice for expediency, and we can question his judgment all we want. It doesn’t make him wrong, nor does it make anyone else right. He knows my opinion and I’m comfortable with him having the final say.
    We have schools in two townships, and I can tell you from as far back as the 90s when CAPCO started, the two townships do not work hand in hand….glad to hear Supt. Giaimo claim that as a goal….but regardless, 911 is the dispatch.

    What is a disgrace is the constant berating of people for doing things you do not agree with or approve of. Swiping in is fine — show me the money. More police are fine. Show me the money. Paoli TS is fine. No money.

    The economy is not turning around……pent up demand is selling houses but once the interest rates head back up (as they already have begun), we will have to rely on inflation to fund pensions. Good thing that works.

    Seriously — all the airbags in a car cannot keep the occupants alive if the crash is a bad one. How much comfort do we need from locked and guarded doors? The bad guys will always have a way past the guard….so the effort to ferret out the bad guys (or work on the mental health of a community, or jobs for people who steal instead of work) may just be something we need to consider….

    1. I get it Andrea, Andy Chambers is the District safety consultant – check. I simply wanted people to know the process to his hiring.
      And if the supervisors want to pay $49K for a police department study, sing its praises and then choose to ignore its recommendation related to hiring, I get it, their prerogative – check.

      Bottom line for me — the police department is now at 39 police officers and the police chief says the department should be restored to 47. Even if it means that I am the only “airbag” fighting for the 2 police officers that the budget approved and the ICMA report supported, so be it. Why bother to put the hiring of 2 officers in the budget if they don’t intend to authorize hiring? Show me the money for hiring 2 officers you say — their hiring is in the budget as part of our tax increase for 2013.

    2. Andrea,

      In a nutshell, you are full of crap. You say, or at least imply that citizens shouldn’t comment or criticize. Then you go down some analogical road of airbags. You agree that the Chambers’ decision was bad, but then say it was expedient and then at the same time, admonish others for having and expressing an opinion of disagreement. Imitate you? That would require me to abandon logic and drop 100 IQ points. I know, you were on the board and know more about what’s going on than anybody. I know, if you were there, none of this would have happened. You don’t live here anymore. Why do you care so much? This is not your community anymore. Regardless, people have a right to express an opinion. That right however does not exitend to have that opinion go unchallenged. If you are going to disagree, then attack the points, attack the reasoning. Don’t imply to people they can’t express and opinion because you say they can’t.

      1. Always the last word……talk about who is in a nutshell.

        Why do I care so much? Good question. I just dropped about 10K into transfer taxes…so I thought my opinion was still okay to express. 1954-2013…banked a lot of years. So you can say it’s not my community anymore, but I’ll stand by my legacy and put it up against yours anytime. Oh wait — you are TR….an anonymous poster.

        I did not imply any such thing, but counselor, you know that. Your whole approach is to admonish others, or threaten them with lawsuits. I would suggest that expressing opinions is healthy, but made moreso when the opinion isn’t always the same.

        So TR…or LWJ, cya.

    3. ———————-
      What is a disgrace is the constant berating of people for doing things you do not agree with or approve of.

      And yet here you are, berating people for expressing opinions you don’t agree with. This may come as a shock to you, I don’t wake up everyday wonding if what I do, say or think fits in with Andrea Felkins’ viewpoints.

      1. Your need to use my last name reminds me why it is so strange that you, who claim to post under your name, now use TR, which when I used Township Reader you said “You are TR — live with it.”
        Why not use LWJ…Last Word John.

  3. Not personal Pattye. And you are not an airbag…but I wonder if a few extra police would be.
    Chambers is what he is….a not to exceed consultant. I believe he should have volunteered his time, and said so. And the two unhired officers are who they are…yet to be named. You serve a very important purpose in this community — you are stuck with it :) I think the article by Mike and Michelle is a start at trying to communicate…let’s see if the meetings stay scripted. My concern is that the TESD went off message and got blasted by some. TBOS seems very hesitant to go off message, and I guess I don’t see a reduction in police officers as “understaffed” … but I hope Supt. G makes his case to the public if he really believes his unit is compromised. Otherwise, overtime is an option….does the officer who stands at the Conestoga girls basketball games, with the police car parked outside? Is that on regular or extra duty time? I was surprised to see him there — glad I guess — but 4 or 5 hours of watching what one might call a smaller crowd (they charge $5 a person to see them play).
    Off topic. Thanks for your effort.

  4. My big beef is why hire someone in law enforcement who made a critical mistake in judgment and rehire him at a large cost? What is Dr. Water’s thinking? Or is it another way for them to continue to get away with corruption at our child’s expense?

    They all provided the township with a semi lie. That police will be around the schools more and your children will have a better relationship with the officers to feel safer.
    However how can one provide this false truth when our department has 39 officers?
    The Board of Supervisors has no intention it seems of hiring anyone any time soon.

    It’s time for parents to stand up and demand some real answers. Stop talking start doing.

  5. The hiring of Andy Chambers without consulting with the current police chiefs about that first is incredibly disrespectful. Chambers may have a massive resume, but I didn’t hear anything on the list that qualifies him as a ‘school safety consultant’ any more or less so then the current police chiefs are.

    You can either take the opinion of Police leadership or you can take the opinion of a school safety expert. The oddity of this is that TESD is only really only taking the opinions of a police leader. Just not a current one.

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