Howard County schools review security measures in wake of Pennsylvania shooting


October 08, 2006|By John-John Williams IV

Far away from the national attention that was generated from the school shootings in Colorado and Pennsylvania, the Howard County school system reassured parents about school safety while staff prepared to deal with potential reaction of students and the education community pondered the events.

Staff members were reminded that they should wear identification badges at all times, that all visitors should wear visitors badges and that all doors - except for the main entrance - should be closed and locked, according to spokeswoman Patti Caplan.

"We feel that we have safety measures in place," Caplan said.

Caplan said that 45 schools have cameras that enable staff to monitor who is entering the building. The school system also sent out a newsletter to parents Thursday, reminding them of the security measures that are in place.

Lucinda Peters of Woodbine has a fourth-grader at Bushy Park Elementary, a public school in Glenwood, and an eighth-grader at the private Resurrection-St. Paul School in Ellicott City. She said that while the schools differ somewhat in the details of their security arrangements, she feels relatively comfortable sending her children to school each day.

"They are as safe as they can be," Peters said. "If someone wants to do something bad, the reality is that no amount of security can prevent that. ... But I do not send my kids to school every day wondering that they will be killed and won't come home."

Several parents and grandparents who were at Running Brook Elementary School one afternoon last week to pick up children said that the recent incidents gave them pause, but added that they were comfortable with the safety precautions at Running Brook.

"There are strict rules here," said Debra Oxendine, who was at the school to pick up her two grandchildren. "There are usually people watching."

Beverly Brown, who also has two grandchildren at the school, agreed that school staff are vigilant.

"They don't mind stopping you," Brown said. "I feel pretty good [about the school's security]."

Many teachers at Running Brook - who were prepared to field questions from their classes - said that their pupils did not make much of the issue.

Amy Mason, a fourth-grade teacher, said that the last incident that got her pupils talking was the death of Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter."

"The children knew him from TV," Mason said.

Mason said that if her pupils inquired about the shootings, she would try to talk to them on an individual basis.

"I wouldn't tell them more details than they need to know," Mason said.

Tameka Brookins, a second-grade teacher, said that the pupils were not as affected as they were by the Washington-area sniper shootings or Sept. 11.

"Their routine didn't change," she said. "Everything was the same."

School boards

Howard County school board members spent part of last week meeting with other board members from school systems across the state at the Maryland Association of Boards of Education annual conference in Ocean City.

The three-day conference, which started Wednesday, featured a series of sessions on everything from religion in schools to monitoring implementation of wellness policies.

Howard County board members planned to attend as many sessions as they could so they could share information with one another, according to Vice Chairman Diane Mikulis. She particularly enjoyed a session on middle school reform.

Chairman Joshua Kaufman said that he was intrigued by sessions about religion in schools and Hispanic student achievement.

"We get to learn from experts in the field, and we get to talk to other board members in the state, and learn from them," he said. "We get to reflect on what we are doing and how to improve."

Students honored

Thirteen Glenelg Country School students have been selected as Maryland Distinguished Scholars.

Gregory Methvin was selected as a finalist and is eligible for an annual $3,000 scholarship for a Maryland college or university.

Finalists have either a 4.0 unweighted grade point average and SAT or PSAT scores of at least 2170, or SAT or PSAT scores of at least 2260 and a grade point average of 3.85.

Edward Collins Chase, Erica Esposito, Adam Ramada and Andrew Walls were named semifinalists.

Students named semifinalists are placed on an alternate list and may be offered scholarships not used by finalists.

Elyka Anvari, David Bery, Cristina Cordova, Peter Garrett, Alexandra Hossick, Sabina Kaczanowska, Angela Manglitz and Megan Stephenson were selected as honorable mentions.

Coffee time

Board members will meet with residents Saturday at Mount View Middle School, 12101 Woodford Drive in Marriottsville, for a Coffee & Conversation session.

This session will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the school's media center.

The sessions are a chance for the public to ask board members questions in an informal setting. The sessions are held at various sites throughout the school year. Residents are invited to attend any or all of the sessions.

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