Hauppauge schools to get armed security guards, officials say
Hauppauge school authorities announced Wednesday that they have hired armed guards to protect their five campuses — the second Long Island district to disclose such action since last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
District administrators estimated that the extra guards hired this week from Melville-based Summit Security Services would cost the district about $300,000 for a full year. Administrators declined to reveal exactly how many officers would be added. But they said there would be more than five, and that the additional personnel would join more than 20 unarmed guards already on duty.
Administrators also said the cost of the added security would not result in losses of other school programs and services.
The Miller Place district announced Feb. 27 that it was posting guards with handguns at each of its four schools. The Center Moriches district has proposed similar security arrangements at its two schools, and the Mount Sinai system has considered such action.
Initially, Miller Place officials said their action would be reviewed at a board meeting scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday. However, the district’s board president, Johanna Testa, told Newsday two hours before the meeting that there would be no such review unless someone raised the issue from the floor.
Later, at the Miller Place board meeting, several parents offered opinions on the issue, though some expressed frustration over the board’s inability to answer questions, including why the district had not fully provided information on the identities of the armed guards patrolling the schools.
At the meeting attended by about 10 residents, Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said many of the questions would be answered at a March 28 meeting.
David Barshay, an attorney who heads Hauppauge’s school board, said pressures to boost school security began to build several years ago and intensified last month.
“I would say Sandy Hook put it on everybody’s radar, and then the Florida shootings certainly made us want to be proactive in protecting students and staff,” Barshay said.
Schools Superintendent Dennis O’Hara said the district did not hesitate to boost security once it clearly became a top priority, but he added, “When I entered the teaching profession almost 28 years ago, I never imagined that armed security would be a decision we’d be discussing.”
Twenty children between 6 and 7 years old and six adult staffers were fatally shot in December, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Last month, 14 teenage students and three staffers were killed in Parkland.
Hauppauge’s system enrolls about 3,500 students from the towns of Islip and Smithtown, and consists of a high school, middle school and three elementary schools. Each building will have an armed guard assigned, and all the new personnel will be retired police officers.
Some residents strongly endorsed the move.
“I feel with everything going on, my children will be a little safer at school,” said Trish Mileti, 42, who teaches in another school district and has two children enrolled in the Hauppauge system.
John St. Pierre, 49, a publisher who has three teenage children in the system, said he reached out to local school officials regarding security about a year ago, because of his concerns that some local schools with multiple entryways might be vulnerable. St. Pierre also has discussed the issue with his family.
“We talk to them about this, and we try to assure them they’re safe,” the father said. “But it’s not like when we grew up, when you wouldn’t even think of anything like this.”
— With Zachary R. Dowdy