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  • Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.
    Superintendent of Schools
     
    Lancaster Central School District
    177 Central Avenue
    Lancaster, NY 14086
     
    District Clerk/Secretary:
    Sandra Janik
    716-686-3201 
  • Dear Lancaster Parents, Family, and Friends...

     The Lancaster Central School District provides an exceptional educational experience for its children but nationwide, school safety is a growing concern for students, parents, faculty and staff, and communities. To address these concerns, this is an appropriate time to give you some details about what we are doing to create a safe climate for learning and working in each of our schools.

    Lancaster has been well-positioned to make incremental, yet meaningful changes to our safety infrastructure, thanks to the community’s support of recent capital projects as well as an infusion of funds in this year’s budget, specifically earmarked to implement safety measures.  

    In a presentation to the board of education on November 5, 2018, Miss Jamie Phillips, assistant superintendent for business and support services said, “We continue to be vigilant regarding the safety and security of our schools. In this year’s budget, we allocated $500,000 devoted to additional security measures. We have explored various tools and improvements that would enhance school security and ensure the continued safety of our children and staff.”  The full presentation with an update on the work of the district can be viewed at www.lancasterschools.org/safety_presentation.

    Everyone, from the board of education and administrative team, to our safety committee, which is comprised of different stakeholders throughout the district, and various school-based committees, is focused on safety. We take advantage of every resource provided by the Lancaster and Depew police departments, our three school resource officers, an Erie1 BOCES health and safety representative, and our insurance companies.

    We've created a quick reference drill card that is stationed in every room throughout the district that outlines what to do in a lockdown, a lockout, and a shelter in place situation. No matter the role, all staff are trained annually to follow these instructions in the event of a crisis response situation.

    We have streamlined visitor as well as student arrival and dismissal procedures. The Lancaster Police Department continues to conduct drills at all of our buildings. In fact, last year, the LPD allowed our administrators to observe a drill which was followed up with training about how emergency responders would take command of an emergency and what the district is expected to do in those situations.

    As part of this year’s budget, we engaged in the consulting services of a professional who spent eight days in March working with administration and staff to assess the climate of our schools.

    As a speaker, trainer, consultant, former School Resource Officer, and an expert in assessing threats of violence, Mr. Don Schomette has spent a lifetime preparing and encouraging others to make a difference in the lives of students.

    Mr. Schomette spent one day at every school mentoring building principals, creating school-specific engagement plans, and discussing his observations and solutions with building principals and building safety committee members.

    Our desired outcomes from consulting with Mr. Schomette were to immediately make each school safer from acts of targeted violence; create procedures that enable staff members to engage positively on a daily basis with students that will not only make schools safer, but also happier, more positive, and better connected; lower staff, student, and parent anxiety and fear; and enhance the culture of our schools. 

    “No person has ever become a teacher so that they could do a lockdown,” Mr. Schomette said. “They become teachers for something bigger. Therefore, we stand a much better chance of being successful if our procedures, methods, and techniques are in harmony with that higher calling.”

    Things that were observed by Mr. Schomette’s recent assessment: How well the school takes advantage of student arrival interactions; spot indicators of concern; and control access as well as send a clear message of ownership. The physical design of the school and whether the classroom doors, walls, and windows promote or hinder the ability of teachers to prevent entry into the classrooms was also assessed.

    Following each school visit, Mr. Schomette sat down with the principal and safety committee members to provide a short verbal debriefing as a precursor to his written reports. 

    “Lancaster's culture is great at all levels,” Como Park principal, Mrs. Molly Marcinelli recalled Mr. Schomette saying following his assessment of her building. “He was struck how the entire staff is encouraged to try new things.  And, he advised that the most important thing was to focus on is ‘super engagement’ with the students and ensuring that students are having at least three positive interactions with staff when they arrive at school.”

    “Mr. Schomette advised the three most important things we need to do to reduce the possibility of violence is to think of increasing surveillance, access control, and ownership,” Mrs. Marcinelli said.  “All of his recommendations will be discussed at building safety committee meetings.”

    Indeed, Mr. Schomette’s visit to our district has been an ongoing source of discussion. We continue to interact with him via phone conferences and plan to continue to engage his consulting and training. The key takeaway was that Lancaster does a fantastic job of providing a safe and secure climate and culture for our students and staff. The challenge now is to go from good to great­–because when it comes to the safety and security of our staff and our students, we feel there is no wiser investment.

    Sincerely,
     
     
    Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.
    Superintendent