Great Neck school board expresses support for boosting security

Superintendent of Schools Teresa Prendergast addresses parents at a Monday night board meeting, along with security and building administrators. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Superintendent of Schools Teresa Prendergast addresses parents at a Monday night board meeting, along with security and building administrators. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Great Neck school board trustees and administrators expressed support for new security measures at a line-by-line reading of their $227.8 million budget proposal on Saturday morning, although how much this will cost is unclear at this time.

School administrators said that security costs for the school are currently worth more than $2 million dollars.

The proposed budget, as it stands now, dedicates most of it to $999,999 worth of security service contracts, $578,017 towards full-time security guards and $215,000 towards part-time security services.

There are also additional costs for new security equipment, repairs for equipment like the district’s hundreds of cameras, and other supplies.

On top of this, school officials said the Nassau County Police and a private security firm will audit the school’s security measures and possibly make recommendations.

Additionally, officials said they are also eying adding more security staff, re-evaluating the responsibilities of roving guards, and have been in informal conversations with security firms.

School administrators are also talking with principals and BBS, the district’s architect, to examine school entrances and the implementation of double door locking.

“I hope that everyone internalizes this, because one of our most important priorities is meeting the security needs of the school district,” Donald Ashkanase, the vice president of the Great Neck Board of Education, said on Saturday.

Teresa Prendergast, the superintendent of public schools, said she believes it is important for school officials to be “reflective enough” to say that while they may have many positive security measures in place, it’s important to continuously improve upon it.

“I also see that it’s important for us to be reflective enough to say we may have a lot of things that are already in place that are positive, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring another set of eyes coming in to see what we have and also perhaps make recommendations to tightening things up even more so in terms of keeping our facilities safe for staff and for students,” Prendergast said.

Prendergast noted that all the information needed might not come in time before April 17, the day the board plans to adopt the budget.

When asked by Ashkenase to confirm whether the school could theoretically amend the budget to include additional security items after April 17, Jon Powell, the assistant superintendent for business, confirmed it would be possible.

“Yes, we could amend the budget and the financing would come from reserves as fund balance,” Powell said.

The stronger push to boost school security follows a March 5 school board budget meeting, where school officials and problem-oriented police officers from Nassau County fielded questions and concerns from parents for more than three hours.

Preceding that meeting were social media posts construed as shooting threats, which prompted many parents to let their children stay home.

Officials then had outlined security measure already in place such as cooperation with local police and the state’s Department of Homeland Security, hundreds of cameras, a phone system that can remotely lock and unlock certain doors, and the LobbyGuard system, which checks people’s identification against databases.

The heightened sense of alert comes in wake of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where a former student shot and killed 17 people.

Hundreds of students from both Great Neck high schools participated in a student walkout on March 14, calling for gun reform legislation and expressing the need to feel safe within their own schools.

School board members, as well as some students and alumni, also recently spoke at a March for Our Lives rally on March 24.

There will be an informal public budget hearing on Monday, April 9, at South High School before its adoption on Tuesday, April 17 at North Middle School. May 7 will mark the annual budget hearing, to take place at South Middle School, before the public votes on the adopted budget on May 15.

About the author

Janelle Clausen

Janelle Clausen is a reporter with Blank Slate Media covering the Great Neck peninsula and Town of North Hempstead. She previously freelanced for the Amityville Record, Massapequa Post and the Babylon Beacon. When not reporting, the south shore native can...
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