Saying it will make New Canaan Public Schools even safer, the Board of Education is seeking to hire an additional “campus monitor” for next academic year.
Currently, the district has nine campus monitors at the public schools—one at each elementary school and three each at Saxe Middle School and New Canaan High School.
The tenth monitor would allow the “lead campus monitor,” who works in a supervisory capacity, to “go around, check protocols, check buildings, do training with staff, work more closely with the principals,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi told the Board of Selectmen during a budget meeting, held Jan. 26 at Town Hall and via videoconference.
The lead monitor would “be involved on a district level,” Luizzi said.
“It is his role and what we expect him to do as the lead campus monitor,” he continued. “But being sort of housed in one building doesn’t permit him to be on-site the way we want him to be.”
The addition of a $38,000 monitor would bring overall security staff spending to $476,510, budget documents show, up about 8.7% from current spending. The Board of Ed’s overall budget request for fiscal year 2024 is about $103.9 million. The selectmen are expected to vote on and pass along the budget during Tuesday’s regular meeting.
During last week’s meeting, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan asked Luizzi how New Canaan has “avoided the Darien conversation on this.” He referred to Darien’s hiring of six armed school security officers, all former law enforcement officers.
Luizzi said that New Canaan’s system “has been in place” since just after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of December 2012.
“Because of the work that we did beginning 10 years or so when we brought in the campus monitor program, the campus monitors generally are retired law enforcement,” Luizzi said. “Through the years we have refined the system more and more. And we’ve been investing in I think both the professional learning and the technology and the appropriate strategies to protect the schools in the right way. If we had nothing, I think we may be in a conversation not dissimilar. But because we have such a great base to begin with, and we’ve got the years that the Crisis Advisory Board has been meeting to partner with the town boards.”
He added that the district plans to take advantage of a new grant that deals with security, and will meet with the town funding bodies in executive session about it.
The Board of Ed’s approach to security has been “thoughtful” and “has served us well and, I think, will continue to,” Luizzi said.
“The campus monitors, they’ve become part of the schools, part of the culture of the school,” he said. “They get to know the kids, the families, they’re there. They love the work that they’re doing. And we talk about retired police officers—sometimes they’re in their 40s. These are people who are engaged and they’re here with us because they want to be. They want to be with kids.”
Board of Ed Chair Dan Bennett added that the addition of a school resource officer or “SRO” this past year at the elementary schools “has been very positively received and seems to be working very well”
“That was an update the Board of Ed received from the district and from the Police Department, and I think that was it seems to be working very well which is a really positive thing,” Bennett said.
He referred to an additional New Canaan Police SRO for the current academic year, who floats around all schools, in addition to full-time SROs at both Saxe and NCHS, as part of a security program that also sees officers make more regular checks at all schools.
Selectman Nick Williams asked Luizzi whether he thinks the district’s system works, given that upgrades can still be made as needed.
Luizzi said, “I’m very confident in the system that we have.”
Williams responded, “That’s great to hear.”
Moynihan also referred to this month’s Newport News, Va. school shooting, where a six-year-old shot a teacher.
“I can’t imagine a six-year-old kid with a gun,” Moynihan said. “Just astounding.”
He added, “But it’s a reality of America.”
Luizzi agreed, saying, “And that’s where we do what we need to do on the security side. And we always consider and invest in our school climate and culture to make sure that every child, every adult feels comfortable telling us any concerns they have. Coming forward if there’s any reason to do so. And we train annually and more frequently than that on response. But it’s challenging.”