Safety is a priority at the Rondout Valley Central School District, where administrators and the Board of Education are taking proactive measures to protect students, staff, and visitors.
“A safe and secure learning environment is fundamental to student learning and success,” said Rondout Valley Superintendent Rosario Agostaro, who points out that the District has undertaken numerous steps to achieve this goal.
Agostaro praises ongoing partnerships with the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police. “Our local law enforcement agencies are committed to providing our community with safe and secure schools,” he said. The partnership also includes active participation and discussion at the Ulster County Police Chiefs School Safety Committee.
One of the outcomes of these valuable relationships has been the establishment of a School Resource Officer (SRO) Program through the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office. SRO Hadeer Omar began working in the District’s four school buildings at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.
“Having a skilled police officer in the schools, working directly with teachers and administrators and interacting with students, reassures parents that their children are safe when they drop them off at school,” Agostaro explained. “We’re grateful for this partnership with the County.”
According to Deputy Omar, “Safety is the biggest part of the job.” During a typical day, he screens visitors, monitors traffic as school buses are unloading, ensures the building entrances are secure, and examines security cameras to verify they are in good working order. He also assists administrators in developing school security and emergency response plans, plans and participates in lockdown/lockout drills, patrols hallways and parking areas, and provides security at school and athletic events.
Another of Deputy Omar’s valuable contributions, however, is the rapport he establishes with students. At the elementary schools, he often visits classrooms, cafeterias, and the playground, serving as a reassuring presence to the young population and reinforcing the message that a police officer is someone students can always turn to for help. At the High School and Junior High/Intermediate School, young people frequently seek him out for advice.
“It’s so rewarding to interact with students ranging in age from 5 to 18 years,” said Deputy Omar, who has two children of his own. “I’ve seen a big difference from the beginning of the year, when many students wouldn’t talk to me, to now, when many of them ask to talk to me about personal problems.”
Deputy Omar also provides student referrals to youth agencies and programs, participates in community-based drug and alcohol prevention programs, and works with staff to educate students about the dangers of underage drinking, drug abuse, and cyber bullying.
The SRO program is just one of the steps in place to provide a safe and secure learning environment. Other initiatives include:
A Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) system in the schools, focusing on giving praise when students are “caught” doing the right thing.
The continued use of electronic buzzer entry systems at each school building.
An upgraded and improved card-swipe system in the High School, Junior High School, and Intermediate School, which allows staff to enter buildings without using keys.
Upgraded camera systems in the High School, Junior High School, and Intermediate School.
Participation in the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Training program.
School safety plan reviews with law enforcement and other key personnel.
“We know from the experts, such as law enforcement and the National Resource Center for Safe Schools, that there is no single factor or quick fix to make schools safer,” commented Superintendent Agostaro. “It requires a strategic, comprehensive approach that engages all stakeholders in the community–including educators, students, parents, law enforcement, businesses, faith-based organizations, and the overall community at large. This is our goal.”
For more information on safety and security at Rondout Valley Schools, contact Rosario Agostaro, Superintendent of Schools at 687-2400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.