Pittsfield officials review security of schools


PITTSFIELD -- The mayor and police and school officials expressed confidence Monday that security in city schools is at a "comfortable" level and is continually being reviewed and upgraded.

Municipal and school officials met in Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi's office to share information and assess the city's level of preparedness in the wake of a mass shooting in a Connecticut elementary school, in which 20 students and six adults were killed Friday.

"I thought it was important that we all got together," the mayor said after meeting with city police and fire officials and school representatives. He said officials meet on a regular basis to review school security issues, but the discussion, which was closed to the media because of the level of detail about procedures discussed, allowed for a fresh look for any potential weak points in the system.

"We always try to revisit [procedures] whenever something like this happens," he said. "We also want to make sure parents and children feel it is safe."

Bianchi said he met with Police Chief Michael Wynn, Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski, Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler, Deputy Superintendent of Schools N. Tracy Crowe, and others.

Wynn said following the session that some new information about possible improvements in security came out of the session, and that will be investigated and discussed at another meeting. There is a working group that meets regularly, he said, adding that he is "very comfortable" that building access and other security issues are being addressed and taken seriously.

In addition to planning on a regular basis, the city has received grant funding to upgrade in-school cameras, door locks and other security issues, Wynn said, and that process will continue.

City police also have been making a point of stopping by schools, he said, to make sure they know school staff members and to introduce themselves when necessary. A school resource officer also attended the meeting at the mayor's office.

Interim Superintendent Gordon Noseworthy said he and Crowe visited city schools on Monday, and he heard of no problems related to the aftermath of the shootings. "And all of the principals said there were no problems," he said. "But that doesn't mean we will let our guard down."

The early response of teachers and administrators on Friday, along with the two days that have passed since the shootings, when parents were able to talk to their children about the tragedy, may have headed off problems, Noseworthy said.

"I think the parents have done a great job of answering their children's questions," he said.

In addition, the school posted information on the website to try to help parents, and Noseworthy sent out a recorded message via the administration's telephone announcement system. Principals at city schools also made themselves available for meetings with parents with questions, and counselors were available at every school to talk to students.

Bianchi said the city has for some time had a comprehensive security system and policies, which began to be implemented after a mass shooting on the Simon's Rock campus in Great Barrington in 1992, in which student Wayne Lo shot six at the school, killing two.


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