Bemus Point Updates Safety Procedures In Wake Of Parkland Shooting

ELLERY — Following the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., many school board meetings in the region have begun with a moment of silence. That trend continued at a Bemus Point School Central School district board meeting Tuesday where safety guidelines were updated and discussed.

Superintendent Michael Mansfield opened the discussion regarding student and school safety early in the meeting following his budget update. The board discussed the various ways students were affected by the recent tragedy and how they can prevent a similar event in the future in the district.

A large part of the discussion focused on the “culture” of the schools being a welcoming and safe environment to work and learn.

“We emphasize relationships with students,” he said.

Mansfield described some of the topics he wrote in his letter to the families of the distinct last week regarding student safety. Mansfield said he wanted to inform parents what the school is already doing for student and school safety. The highlights of the letter included culture, infrastructure, emergency response procedures and communications and education and training.

He noted the state government has pushed for more school funding as it relates to security.

“There is movement (in the state), and I don’t know where it will go, in terms of funding us for some resource officers,” he said.

The superintendent began the school safety discussion by considering the option of hiring a resource officer. Mansfield explained that the resource officer would be much more than just a security guard.

“I look at (a school resource officer) as a counselor with maybe a gun. To me, you get a really good resource officer (and) in my experience they have great relationships with the kids. They are in the buildings doing proactive work,” Mansfield said.

The board also discussed offering the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office an additional office within the building that deputies could use with the goal of having a larger police presence at the school for deterrering any type of criminal behavior of school grounds.

Julie Verdonik, high school principal, informed the board that many students were severely affected by the Parkland, Fla. shooting.

Barry Swanson, board member and coordinator of safety and security at Jamestown Community College, who has experience with campus safety talked with the board about various ways the school could upgrade student safety. Much of the conversation among the board and teachers in attendance revolved around improving preparation and communication.

In other news, Mansfield’s new contract was approved through 2023. Randy Oste, board vice president, said he was proud to have Mansfield as the district’s superintendent.

Mansfield also updated the board on the current budget proposal for the following year and noted that the estimated deficit has been decreased to around $160,000. He noted that the state legislature has been quiet regarding negotiations involving the governor’s budget.