|Photo Credit: The Current|
In the wake of a recent loaded gun incident at Absegami High School, Greater Egg Harbor Regional faculty and staff are speaking out about the lack of a proactive approach to security issues by Superintendent John Keenan and his dishonesty about the district’s safety procedures.
Since the beginning of the school year, there have been 572 disciplinary issues reported at the three high schools. These incidents include dangerous/unsafe behavior, disorderly conduct, threats, fights/physical altercations, and weapons offenses. That’s an average of 26 incidents every day that school has been in session during September of this school year.
Some of the students involved in these incidents were known to have serious behavior issues at the middle school level. In fact, they were recommended for out of school placement, but the district chose to keep them.
At one school alone, three knives have been confiscated since the beginning of the school year.
Keenan was reported in the press as saying that the district has a system in place for students to alert officials, administration and staff anonymously of suspicious behavior. However, the truth is there is no mechanism currently in place, although it was promised at the end of the school year, according to GEHREA President Stephanie Tarr.
Staff was told at the end of the 2015-16 school year that there would be a security app for students and staff to use in the event of an emergency at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. They were also told that they would be trained on the app at during the in-service days immediately preceding the opening of school for students. That training did not take place. Then they were told they would be trained at the first faculty meeting. That training also did not take place. Now, they are being told that the training may finally take place on Oct. 10.
“This is just another example of the district’s lack of planning and forethought under Mr. Keenan’s leadership,” said Tarr. “Thank God no one was hurt in this latest incident, but the district needs to be doing more, and making better decisions, about safety procedures in our schools. It took a serious incident that jeopardized students’ lives to finally get the district to schedule the overdue training.”
In addition, under Keenan’s leadership, a student was permitted to return to school after assaulting a teacher.
The Effective School Solutions (ESS) program is costing the Board over ¾ of a million dollars a year and is supposed to address student behavior issues is ineffective in meeting students’ needs, according to Tarr. This program was instituted to save money, but it does nothing to actually protect student or staff safety. “ESS clinicians whose responsibility it is to address behavior issues in the classroom have in fact actually walked out of the room when they were unable to resolve the situation, leaving the student and staff member without assistance.” Tarr stated. “and in at least one school, the clinician and the coordinator have no experience working in schools.”
“Our members are committed to providing a safe environment in which our students can learn,” said Tarr, “but we need the district to be a partner with us and to be transparent and honest with parents and the community. Our students’ safety is too important to risk. We expect our superintendent to live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves, and that means being proactive, and not just reactive as demonstrated by Mr. Keenan. We were lucky this time,” said Tarr, we may not be so lucky the next time.”
Press Release by the Greater Egg Harbor Regional Education Association