WBOE reconsiders new Beecher security system

WBOE reconsiders new Beecher security system
Beecher Road School, north and south.

And Yesner goes the extra mile

By Sheila McCreven-Helfenbein, Correspondent
Orange Bulletin August 23, 2001 edition

Acting to review a decision made last month to install an ATM-type swipe card security system at Beecher Road school, the Woodbridge Board of Education voted 5-1 with 3 members absent on Monday to alter its direction. It will eliminate the video surveillance component of this new system before it is implemented.

The switch means that the new security system will not be in place by the start of the school year, September 4th, but will instead be phased in. Security Guards will continue to be employed on a month-to-month basis during the transition. 

Woodbridge School Superintendent Peter Madonia cautioned the Board that without video surveillance the new Prox Card system presents "potential problems... for office monitoring by school officials," as any person wishing to enter without a swipe card would have to be buzzed-in. With a video camera in place, office personnel would have been able to see whom they were buzzing in from a desk inside the main offices. Also, the proposed video feed to the police department, for use in emergency situations, is eliminated with this move.

8-23-2001 newspaper
8-23-2001 edition of the Orange Bulletin

The change will save the Board approximately $10,600 in equipment costs and an untold amount off the system installation fee. The Board voted to leave to Madonia the choice of whether to lease or buy the equipment outright. If leasing, the school will assume a $435 per month service fee. If an outright purchase is made, the monthly service fee will be $790. With the removal of the video component, total costs for leasing the new system will drop below $26,200. The purchase option will decrease to less than $46,200.

The issue was reopened when two local residents with security equipment installation experience offered their services to the school district; one to advise the school on the financial viability of its planned installation; the other requesting an opportunity to bid. This resulted in an estimate of cost that did not recommend the swipe card aspect of the original proposal. This subsequently opened the question of which equipment was most needed to ensure the safety and security of the school. The Board considered dropping the swipe cards and implementing the video camera and door buzzer system only, but ultimately rejected that option.

Along with hiring new staff members, the WBOE also moved to accept policy initiatives, among them a new directive governing access to the school by parents and other visitors. The new policy, approved unanimously, requires all visitors to sign-in and out at the main offices and obtain a visitors pass in addition to the Prox Card he or she may already have used to gain access to the building. Teachers will also be required to redirect anyone without a pass, and will notify the offices of all visitors expected as volunteers in the classroom or for conferences.

The Board also voted unanimously to establish the following standing committees; Curriculum, Policy, Finance, and Facility. This Facility Committee will take up the work of the former Ad Hoc Building Study Committee, which was weighing options for the possible expansion of Beecher.

It was also announced that a decision on what form this expansion proposal will take must be made by the Board of Selectmen no later than October 31st of this year. That is when an amendment to change the scope of the application for state reimbursement of construction cost must be filed. This spring, the state formally accepted an application for school construction, filed in June 2000, and notified the district that it will be reimbursed at a rate of 25.69%. Any building proposal must ultimately be approved by voters in a town-wide referendum sometime before June 30, 2002, when state approval for reimbursement would expire.

Bunny Yesner
Bunny Yesner speaks with 3rd graders on a field trip from Beecher, in her role as docent at the Thomas Darling House

Yesner goes the extra mile

WBOE member Bunny Yesner really takes her responsibilities seriously! After undergoing heart surgery earlier this month to correct a valve defect, the newly elected Board member received special permission from her doctor to attend Monday night's board meeting. As a condition of her release from an aftercare facility where she has been recovering, Yesner used a wheelchair to travel through Beecher Road School to the library she only recently vacated upon her retirement as Librarian in June of 2000.

With the usual sparkle shining in her eyes, Yesner peppered the administration with questions and comments, as the Board moved through its agenda. Accompanied by son Steven, who said his mother's need to get right back to business was a comforting sign to the family, Yesner impressed the Board and its audience with her determination and drive.

All will welcome her full return soon. After all, with a number of additional commitments to various boards and committees, who has time to sit around and heal?