Teaneck School’s Lack of Security Officers Faces Scrutiny at Board Meeting

At a recent Teaneck School Board meeting, parents and board members voiced concerns over the district’s security protocols, focusing particularly on the staffing and roles of safety officers at schools.

While Superintendent Dr. Andre Spencer showcased the district’s achievements, including Teaneck High School students receiving accolades from the 2023 College Board National Recognition Program and an impressive 99% graduation rate, issues of school security took precedence in the discussions.

A concern emerged over the apparent absence of a school security officer at Bryant Elementary School. Multiple parents underscored the importance of such an officer, especially during the vulnerable pick-up and drop-off times. One parent shared, “I think it’s an absolute critical error to leave the most vulnerable youngest students in our district, the least protected.”

Resident Ms. Pollard intensified the dialogue by expressing her personal anxiety, noting her child’s tendency to impulsively run. One resident outlined past incidents of doors left open. The need for tighter security measures became evident as parents sought clarification on the roles and statuses of the district’s safety officers.

Dr. Spencer, while responding to these concerns, emphasized that all security officers in the district were part-time employees. Dr. Spencer elucidated the current security strategies in place, which include a buzzer system controlled by front office staff and a monitored camera system to oversee all school entrances. He noted these protocols, which feature a “dead man zone” and a “vestibule area” acting as security checkpoints in all schools, were designed to ensure comprehensive safety in all campuses. The superintendent affirmed the administrative willingness to address all the points raised, stressing that it would not be a back-and-forth discussion but all concerns would be acknowledged.

Nevertheless, some confusion persisted regarding the officers’ exact roles, with the agenda suggesting some were full-time, contrary to Dr. Spencer’s clarification. A call for clarity resounded, with one board member requesting, “Can we please make sure that’s edited or corrected for the final agenda?”

Aside from security concerns, Dr. Dennis Klein, a trustee, questioned the fees linked with AP tests and raised a query about the disconnect between students’ standardized test scores and their progression to post-secondary education. Some board members suggested that class assessments might be more reflective of student capabilities. One member commented on state tests, suggesting that they might not always capture a student’s true potential because “the kids simply… don’t care to put their best foot forward.”

Public transport for students, including the timeliness of school buses, was another point of contention. Dr. Spencer mentioned the potential for sanctions against consistently late bus companies, hinting at future action to ensure punctuality.

Finally, Dr. Spencer addressed the ongoing process to hire a new principal for Hawthorne Elementary School and reaffirmed the district’s commitment to multilingual communication, especially for Spanish-speaking families, through platforms like Google Translate.

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