March 2015 +
Winter has wreaked havoc on our school days this year and getting to and from school has been a challenge! But school goes on no matter the weather because your child’s education is incredibly important, as is their safety.
Recently, we experienced a break-in at our high school. School was not in session and a collaboration of the IT and Security teams with local law enforcement brought the burglar to justice! Why do I bring this up? For a few reasons. One, we all must participate in our security envelope at the schools. Every staff member, student and visitor must recognize they have a part to play in ensuring a safe school environment. Is that adult walking in the hallway wearing their school-issued identification, either as staff or visitor? That is an easy way to identify those who should not be in the building.
Did you hear the fire or security drill notification? No? Did others immediately alert you that an event was in process or did you notify others so they might respond quickly? Last week, we conducted a complex drill in the Bergen: ASCS Middle School campus where a Lockdown was called. Students and staff alike responded FAST! Myself and the other security coordinators from all our schools as well as a Detective from Garfield Police watched and waited for mistakes. Then we pulled the FIRE ALARM to see if someone would evacuate (a common tactic to get people to reveal themselves from hiding); NO ONE MADE A SOUND OR MOVED! What an outstanding demonstration and proof that training is the key to safety and success. The staff and students did a remarkable job.
Back to the burglar that was apprehended recently. As I am wont to do often in incidents such as this, I look to make it a teachable moment. After all, we are an educational district! The 46 year old man who stole from our school has a heroin habit. Now that is not an excuse but it does point to the issues in our society. Drug abuse and addiction is a mental health issue and ones that require treatment. This person will be offered treatment in the jail- I know- I ran the jail in Bergen as Sheriff for six years. How does this affect you and your family? Drug abuse affects us all, whether it is as victims of crime, or in our own families. It can be stopped and it can be treated. But it takes communication and honesty. Do you know of students taking illegal drugs? Are you pressured into fitting in to what others are doing? If so, take a moment to think about that 46 year old man, sitting in the jail because he broke into our school to steal in order to get money to buy heroin! That same man was a student some years ago and I know he never thought he would end up in jail, but he did because he didn’t care enough about himself to reach out to his parents or his teachers and talk about what was bothering him. Illegal drug use is wrong, it’s illegal, and it will harm you in many ways. If you need help and want to talk to any one of the security team, they are experienced in dealing with these issues and will help you. Your teachers and administration are there to help. Your parents care about you. See, you have a lot going for you and success is in your grasp! Let’s work together to pave the way for your success! Read More
October 2014 +
Fall is here, the air is turning cooler and the leaves are falling! What a beautiful time of year to enjoy activities in and outside of our schools. Of course, that means Halloween is also upon us, as is All Hallows’ Eve, known by many names- including mischief night! It is a scary time where our children dress in costumes, some scary, some funny, and trick or treat in their neighborhoods.
From a safety and security perspective this can be a fun time but it also requires some thought so it is enjoyable and does not pose any injury or safety issues.
Some thoughts to consider during this time of year.
Driving- Children are still playing in the streets and may enter the street between cars- be aware, slow down!
Walking- Leaves are on the ground and rain causes even more hazards. Again, take your time and be careful where you walk. There may be potholes or hazards covered by leaves and water.
Playing- There have been reports in the past of serious harm to children creating and playing in large leaf piles and forts that a motorist drives through. Stay out of the street!!
Halloween- be sure the costume does not inhibit walking or movement and does not block vision in any way. The best costumes are homemade ones! This is a great activity to do with your child and it is cheap too! See: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/10/12/5-cheap-diy-halloween-costumes
Be sure to stay with your child as they Trick or Treat. Often parents will group their children together for the event. There is safety in numbers!
Mischief Night- as a police officer for many, many years, we had extra patrols out to ensure this is a safe and fun night for those that wished to participate. We had a block of parents/neighbors who supervised this bit of decadent fun using shaving cream, flour socks and a fair amount of wet toilet paper strewn about. But it was supervised! It is preferable to supervise and restrict activities this evening rather than experience the potential for groups wishing to do harm and victimize your child. Or in some cases, your child may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The best way to keep that from happening is to be a part of a fun night with your child in a safe way.
While our schools provide a quality education and our security team is diligent in ensuring a safe and secure environment for our schools, your role as parent is the most important predictor of success for your child. You are their role model and hero- hey there is a good idea for your costume! The Superhero Mom and Dad!
Enjoy a safe and fun Fall season! Read More
September 2014 +
Welcome back! With our second week of school in full swing, on behalf of the entire Security cadre, I want to thank you for your assistance and support.
The first week of school brings uncertainty as well as excitement as you try to get your child to/from school while Security works to ensure everyone is safe and secure.
- Remember, only park in legal spaces, do not block driveways, and do not leave your car running when you are not in it!
- Please ASK Security before retrieving your child, even if they are outdoors or on the bus. We have a process in place to ensure full accountability of a students’ location and we take this responsibility very seriously.
- Take an extra second or two and we will be sure every child is safely released. Aftercare and clubs have begun and you MUST pickup your child on time! If there is an emergency, CALL us and we will work with you.
- Chronic tardiness at the end of the day will result in a meeting with the School Director and potential sanctions. Our last resort is to contact the Police Department if a child has not been picked up; PLEASE do not let that happen.
Again, communication and your continued cooperation are the keys to our success in keeping your child safe!
Thank you for attending NJASCS! Read More
June 2014 +
As our school year winds down, the warmth of spring is upon us and our students are anxiously anticipating the summer break. The past school year has been filled with success, from the many entertaining programs your children performed in or in one of the many robotics or science events. What a year this has been watching your children grow and learn under the stewardship of our NJASCS faculty. We also saw several special events, from the Quality in Education Summit, Science Olympiad, Math Contest, Security Summit, and of course, the GSIHF. What a jam-packed year this has been!
What you may not have taken much notice of was the ever present and watchful eye of your security team. Our mission is to ensure a safe and secure educational environment, so that teachers can teach, and your children can learn, unfettered by the dangers that might be out there. This year we were successful in that mission. But I know we can do even better! At the GSIHF, we worked and planned to create the safest possible environment so that everyone could enjoy themselves. Part of our focus is to be as sure as we can that no dangerous items are brought into the event. I was dismayed to find that some adults made light of our inspection of bags to ensure the complete safety of all visitors. Unfortunately, some of the comments may have been made in the presence of our students. Please know that we cannot be successful in our mission on behalf of your child unless we can rely on your complete understanding and cooperation. With many heinous acts being committed around the country in and around schools, including another this very week in Oregon, our collective commitment to safety and security is as important as it ever was- and we need your help! The security provided for your child is no joke and with six buildings and nearly 1800 students, your continued support is the very foundation of our success, both in security and the education of your child. To those who have called or emailed me with comments, observations and suggestions, THANK YOU! To those who wish to learn more or further assist in making our schools safe and successful, please know that I, and the security team remain on duty and ready to help make success a part of your child’s future—- safely. Please join us!
Have a wonderful and safe summer!
Leo P. McGuire, MBA
North Jersey Arts and Science Charter Schools Read More
April 2014 (Op-ed) +
It is in the news all too frequently. Students and educators violently attacked at their schools. Last week, it was Murrysville, Pennsylvania, where a 16-year old student brought two large knives to his high school, and stabbed 21 people before being subdued. While our schools have never been completely free of violence, the 15 years since the horrific Columbine massacre have made it clear that this is a trend we cannot ignore.
The fact is that most of the 55 million students in American schools will never experience an incident of school violence. But that offers no comfort to those in communities that have been or may be rocked by a tragic event. Any time an incident like Murrysville or Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech occurs, we react with horror, as we should. But we, as a community, should also evaluate what happened and determine if we can learn anything in order to protect our children from the next potential attack. Emergencies don’t make appointments and we cannot simply delay security preparations until they are convenient. After all, when it comes to the safety of our children, we cannot just hope that the odds will be in our favor. We have to prepare for the possibility that they won’t.
That’s what we’re doing at North Jersey Arts and Science Charter Schools (NJASCS). We’ve implemented several best practices designed to identify and deter unauthorized visitors, including school uniforms, ID cards for both students and staff, controlled access to our buildings and camera surveillance systems. Our security team, a full-time, unarmed staff of retired law enforcement officers and military veterans, keep watch over our schools so that educators can focus on teaching. Security is on duty whenever students are present, which is often after 5pm some nights and many Saturdays. We’re also evaluating implementing direct video and radio connections to the local police department, a school-wide electronic emergency notification system and an anonymous threat reporting application. This is what works for us and we recognize that no two schools will choose to address their safety concerns in the exact same manner.
While most of the school violence incidents have been the result of “active shooters,” the Murrysville stabbing illustrates the need for comprehensive security plans that anticipate the full spectrum of potential incidents. Threats come in many forms: firearms, knives, you name the weapon that can inflict serious bodily injury or death, and we must be aware and prepared for it. Some schools line their doors with metal detectors, others are debating the merits of employing armed security personnel, and some choose to employ a part-time School Resource Officer (SRO). The most important step that every school should take is to regularly engage with local law enforcement and ensure that its staff is well-prepared to respond if tragedy strikes.
Recently, NJASCS hosted a town-hall style school security summit to discuss best practices, as well as the compromises that must be made when reconciling safety with the primary educational goals of a school. Attended by law enforcement leaders in Bergen and Passaic counties as well as educators, school administrators and board members, as well as school security officers, the roundtable format explored the threats and constraints present in our schools. The consensus was that school, law enforcement, and community leaders face a tall order when it comes to keeping our schools safe. They must collaborate across disciplines to prepare for every worst case scenario, update best practices in response to the latest information and incidents, while still remaining mindful of budget limitations that constrain some security funding decisions.
Ultimately, we can never completely eliminate the threat of school violence. After all, Murrysville’s SRO was among the injured victims in last week’s attack. But teachers and students acted quickly to evaluate the threat, evacuate where they could, and saved victims’ lives with critical first aid knowledge. With careful security preparation, every school could be so fortunate. While statistically the risk of an attack may be small, it is worth the investment of our time and our resources to protect every child from becoming a victim.
Leo P. McGuire, MBA
Security Director Read More
January 2014 +
Welcome back from what I hope was a rewarding holiday break. 2014 is here and boy has it come in strong with snow, rain and bitter cold! As this is a new year, it is an opportunity for us to rededicate ourselves to the tasks at hand.
For your Security Team, that means reviewing our current processes and enhancing the security measures we have in place. We will not rest in our quest to make this the premier educational and safe environment for your child!
As I have mentioned, and promised, Security staff will be reminding each student to wear their ID Badge. All staff are required to wear their IDs and every visitor will be issued a visitors' badge.
Help us maintain the safety of our schools. If someone is in the school and does not have an ID clearly displayed, say something immediately to a teacher, staff or security. While we take great efforts to ensure there are no unwanted guests in our schools, the possibility still exists and this is where we can all participate in our school's safety.
You will also notice that we have a new comment form on the website. Is one of the members of the staff or security team doing an exceptional job? Or is there something that needs greater attention? In either case, we want to know how we can improve, so please go to: http://njascs.org/report-form/ and enter your comments- WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!!
As always, thank you for your support!
Leo P. McGuire, MBA
Security Director Read More
November 2013 +
The week of November 5th has been quite harrowing, to say the least. An active shooter roamed the Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus and later took his own life. Thankfully, no one else was injured but the police response was overwhelming and effective. On November 5th, Election Day, not only was it a day to choose a Governor, Senate, Assembly, Sheriff and Freeholders, as well as local candidates, we experienced two lockdowns in nearby schools. Lodi and Glen Rock went on lockdown after false reports of an armed intruder in the buildings. Fortunately, our schools were spared such incidents, but know that we are prepared for any eventuality that may present itself.
Each of our schools train regularly for: fire drills, active shooter, lockdown and shelter in place. We have established relationships with local law enforcement and fire departments to ensure we prepare for the best possible response.
Recently, some parents have come to the school and were somewhat perturbed by our increasing levels of security, believing “they should know me” or “I’ve always come in”. Your school CEO and Principals have placed their faith in a new way of making sure your children are safe. By bringing me on board earlier this year and allowing me to design and implement more stringent security policies and hiring security professionals, who are experienced, retired law enforcement officers and military members as your security team, we are working diligently to make our schools safer. Occasionally, this may result in hard feelings and a sense that we are too firm. WE CARE ABOUT EVERY CHILD IN THE SCHOOL AND WILL WORK TO MAINTAIN THEIR SAFETY! However, we are also cognizant that these are your children and it is my job to help find that delicate balance between being firm and an appropriate level of customer service. We may go too far sometimes, and I rely on your feedback to help find that balance. So if you have an observation or an issue that needs to be resolved, please give me a call: (201) 773-9140 ext. 123. Be sure to leave your name and call back #.
I, and one of my campus security coordinators, will attend a two-day seminar on Enhanced Threat and Risk in Schools to better prepare ourselves on your child’s behalf.
There is a lot to think about, and a lot for us to do, but together we can ensure a safe and secure educational environment for your child. Let’s keep up the dialogue!
Leo P. McGuire, MBA
Security Director Read More
October 2013 (Halloween) +
As Halloween is upon us, these past few weeks have been particularly scary as a parent. Recently we saw several terrible incidents across the nation where students were the perpetrators of violence in and around their schools. In Massachusetts, a teenager is accused of killing a teacher, in Nevada, a student killed a teacher and wounded several students. Unfortunately, as the days and weeks go by, we will hear about more and more of these incidents across the country. What can we do together to ensure the safe and secure educational environment you deserve and expect here at the Bergen, Passaic and Paterson Arts and Science Charter Schools?
In addition to the layers of physical security we employ throughout all our schools, with experienced, retired law enforcement officers as your security team, video surveillance and visitor management in place, you are welcomed to participate in the success of our security plans. How can you help?
Here are a few things to keep in mind but know that there are no specific things pointing to a potentially dangerous situation:
Strategies for prevention:
- Are you noticing any change of behavior in your child?
- Is your child worried about another student’s behavior or things said in their presence?
- Bullying or being bullied.
- Often, a child in crisis exhibits subtle changes, i.e., over-sleeping, listlessness, despair, withdrawal, aggression, easily frustrated.
- Obsession with violent video games.
Positive relationships between students and their prosocial peers, teachers, and families can be critical assets in promoting youth’s well-being and preventing school violence. Several strategies to enhance these relationships have been found to be effective in reducing violence.1 For instance, many universal, school-based violence prevention programs improve students’ social skills and problem-solving abilities, which can result in more positive peer and student-teacher relationships throughout the school. Some school-based programs also help students know how to appropriately and safely intervene to stop an escalating violent episode between peers.
Many school-based programs and policies are also effective in helping teachers build healthy relationships, model nonviolent attitudes and behaviors, and contribute to a broader positive school climate, which in turn lowers the risk for school violence.1These approaches teach educators effective ways to manage a classroom, resolve conflicts nonviolently, promote positive relationships between students with diverse backgrounds, and create positive student-teacher relationships so that students feel comfortable talking with teachers about violence-related issues.
Finally, by enhancing parent involvement in both academic and social aspects of their children’s school experiences - including involving parents in prevention programs - family cohesion and communication are improved. Prevention approaches that involve the family, especially those that start early, can have substantial, long-term effects in reducing violent behavior.2
Our schools have programs in place that allow your child to get involved. We have a Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB) School Safety Team in accordance with law. You can, and should, participate in your Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). Of course, we are always open to discussing your child’s success, whether it is involved with any of the above or just to make sure your child has every opportunity to achieve at their highest level. On Security’s part, we continue to enhance our level of training which includes a two-day seminar on Enhanced Threat and Risk in Schools coming up.
- David-Ferdon C, Simon TR. Striving To Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere (STRYVE): The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national initiative to prevent youth violence foundational resource. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2012.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. School Violence: Prevention.
There is a lot to think about, and a lot for us to do, but together, we can ensure a safe and secure educational environment for your child. Let’s keep up the dialogue!
Leo P. McGuire, MBA
Security Director Read More
October 2013 +
Now that we are solidly into another school year, I am pleased with the amount of participation and involvement you, the parents and guardians, have taken thus far. The success of your child is exponentially enhanced by your support, but there can be missteps along the way. Our security staff is dedicated to your child’s safety but sometimes we may not agree on what security protocols we should take. I ask that you be patient and understanding as we get to know each of you. Please remember that we cannot be successful if you are late in dropping off your child to the bus or late in picking them up!! The security staff is in the school for a finite amount of time (they have families too!) and your tardiness is detrimental to the overall operation, so BE ON TIME PLEASE!!
In addition, we are pleased to announce a new intern working with the Charter schools during this fall. Heeral Mody is a military veteran, serving eight years in the Marine Corps. She is a dual major, expecting her undergraduate degree in November 2013 in Criminal Justice and Psychology. Heeral has had the opportunity to travel the world, and contribute in philanthropic efforts by building a school in Kenya, teaching children at an orphanage in the Philippines, and volunteering as a sports coordinator in Okinawa, Japan with military community relations efforts.
As a Garfield native, she is well aware of the issues and concerns regarding the neighborhoods and the North Jersey education system. Her focus is to create and implement any procedures and processes that can help make our North Jersey Arts and Science Charter Schools more effective and secure, while creating a proposal to improve New Jersey’s response policies within the schools. We are glad to have her on our team, as she will be able to provide a perspective from a fresh outlook with alternate perspectives.
As we move forward through the month of October, we look forward to embracing the changes that have already begun to take occur within the School community built by your children, our staff, and the families.
Leo P. McGuire MBA
Dir. Of Safety and Security
Sheriff (Ret.) Read More
September 2013 +
Welcome to the Bergen, Passaic and Paterson Charter School system where you and your child have the opportunity to experience education at a high level of success. This success is centered on YOUR child! While our education and administrative staff are dedicated to teaching and mentoring your child, the Security staff is charged with ensuring we provide a safe and secure educational environment.
Upon coming on as your Director of Safety and Security, we have been able to recruit a staff of recently retired law enforcement professionals and military veterans who are dedicated to the vision and mission of our schools on behalf of your child. With my 30+ years of experience as a member of the Military Police in the US Army and as a police officer and as Sheriff of Bergen County with national exposure, I continue to seek out best practices and the best methods of providing a protective school environment. Our security staff possess more than 400 years of combined law enforcement and professional experience!
I am proud to serve you and your child in ensuring your safety but I ask your assistance. Success is a team sport that requires our complete collaboration. Thus I ask that you not only introduce yourself to our security officer (the ones in the yellow shirts!) but be sure to park legally at drop off/pickup and most importantly- BE PATIENT!
School has just begun and we will continue to modify our procedures to make operations more efficient and even safer. But I ask your patience and your assistance. Please consider being an active member of your school’s PTO, where we will have a great working relationship to share information and ensure we continue to excel. One of the major modifications we have made is in our response to potential Active Shooter scenarios. We have learned much over the years and our staff has been personally trained by me to have more options available to them in the remote possibility of an incident. We have several layers of security to mitigate any security issues in our schools- we are on the job and vigilant in keeping our schools safe!
I thank you in advance for your cooperation; now let’s get to work providing a safe and secure educational environment for your child!
Leo P. McGuire MBA
Dir. Of Safety and Security
Sheriff (Ret.) Read More