Utica, N.Y. - Members of the Utica School Board organized a School Safety Summit on Friday at their board room at the Utica City School District offices.
Besides school officials from throughout the region, area politicians and members of law enforcement agencies also attended to share their thoughts on improving school safety throughout the region.
Congresswoman Claudia Tenney was on hand and shared information about federal legislation that is in the works to get more funding for school safety. She told the group to come up with a plan for improvements, and says money to implement those improvements could follow, "Get the plan in place and we can fight to bring grants and funding for it."
Utica Schools Superintendent Bruce Karam says this gathering is a very good start to improve safety and says he is happy to hear those involved in Friday's gathering will be part of future meetings. The next meeting is expected to be held in the coming weeks.
Utica School Board President Christopher Salatino says school safety is not just a Utica issue, and says the goal of this group is to come up with a comprehensive emergency operation plan that can be a used for all area districts in the event of an emergency, "We want to have a good plan that we can introduce to all of the districts in this area so we’re all on the same page."
Utica School Board Member Michele Mandia says there have been numerous meetings held in the past about school safety but says it's time for action, "It’s time to just stop talking about it, it’s time to make this happen."
Utica Police Chief Mark Williams says one of the potential improvements he'd like to see is adding metal detectors to schools, "They’re necessary, and it’s not only just the metal detectors, you’ve got to limit the points of entry into a building, like Proctor itself, I think there’s over 87 doors to that place so you’ve got to limit the access to that building or any building for that matter."
Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri also took part in the summit and says he would like to see a list of what he calls action items made to get the process rolling, "Action items, what do we do first, what do we do second, there are some things that we can do immediately at this point."
Karam says all of the ideas brought up are are good ones but he would especially like to see a lot of emphasis on the mental health angle of violence prevention, "I think that is equally important as the rest of what we talked about today. The rest of it is good for first line of protection, but I think in order to curb the threat from the beginning we need to enhance our mental health services."
A second meeting will be held in the coming weeks with all of the same participants where each idea will be discussed in much further detail.