The Board of Education will meet in a special emergency meeting Friday, Dec. 21 at 7:30 a.m. in the Hammonasset Room at Town Campus, on Campus Drive, off of Duck Hole Road, to discuss and take action on a special appropriation request from Madison School Superintendent Thomas Scarice and Madison Police Chief Jack Drumm to increase security at all public schools.
In a Board of Finance meeting Wednesday night, Scarice and Drumm sought and received approval from the finance board, pending other requisite approvals from the selectmen and school board, to spend $45,000 to install a buzzer, video camera, intercom, and improved lock systems for all of the town's public schools, from the high school campus to the pre-school campus.
At 1 p.m., the Board of Selectmen will take up the same request in Room A at Town Campus.
If both boards agree, the town will be able to move forward with implementing a system that some say is similar to one at Sandy Hook Elementary School that, while it was not able to prevent the tragedy, prevented it from being worse.
On Friday, Dec. 14 at 9:30 a.m., the Sandy Hook system was easily penetrated by one angry, mentally disturbed 20-year-old man wielding a semiautomatic Bushmaster AR-15 assault-type rifle (which fires one bullet per squeeze of the trigger) with several 30-round magazines, a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9 mm, all legally purchased by the gunman's mother, who was killed by the gunman prior to the attack on the school. The gunman then killed 20 students, six teachers, and himself before police arrived.
However, despite the horrific carnage that ensued, it might have been worse without the Sandy Hook security system that was in place, says Madison resident Bill Reiner, a security expert who worked for the FBI for more than 20 years. At the Board of Finance meeting Wednesday, Reiner said that when the locked entrance was breached at Sandy Hook Elementary, the lockdown system was triggered inside the schools, the teachers had a little bit of time to react and try to hide their students, an alarm was sounded, and help was quickly on the way.
Acting First Selectman Joe MacDougald said it is his understanding that the selectmen will take action only on the $45,000 proposal at this time, as that has been designated by the superintendent and police chief as the highest priority.
A second short-term measure proposed Wednesday night, for approximately $120,000 in funding to hire contract workers as community service officers at the schools, is still being developed and considered by the Board of Education, said Scarice. He said that proposal will not be on the table Friday.
"That is still being discussed in terms of needs and possibilities," Scarice said. "There still is a lot of discussion to be had. The police department has already done a lot of work to present us with options. And the next step would be for the Board of Educaiton to take action on what option they'd like."
While those discussions are underway, Scarice said there will be a continued police presence on the campus, and that Board of Education staff will be at the front doors of the locked schools to ensure everyone is checked before going in.
MacDougald said he is trying to cobble together at least three attendees for Friday's meeting, a task complicated by the fact that some of the selectmen are sick and existing obligations during a busy time of year. But he said he is confident he will be able to, even if some are represented by telephone only.
"We have received a request from the police department to act with speed on this, which is fine," MacDougald said. "And this is not the end of our security discussion in the town of Madison. It is just the beginning."