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Kayla Cuevas’ mother to Brentwood schools: Make district safer

Evelyn Rodriguez, mother of teen slaying victim Kayla Cuevas, appeared before the Brentwood school board at its meeting on Nov. 17, 2016, looking for answers from board members about safety in the school district. (Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely and News 12 Long Island)

The mother of one of the two Brentwood teens found beaten to death in a spasm of suspected gang violence in September told residents Thursday she is pressing school officials to make the district safer.

“Our lives were turned upside down on Sept. 13 and Sept. 14,” said Evelyn Rodriguez, the mother of Kayla Cuevas. The 16-year-old girl was killed along with her best friend, Nisa Mickens, by assailants who Suffolk police believe were gang members.

The crimes were the first of six still unsolved gang-related homicides discovered in Brentwood this year.

But Rodriguez told hundreds of residents at a packed Brentwood school board meeting late Thursday that she is looking at the “bigger picture” now to help prevent another tragedy.

She questioned the board on expenditures that she said could make the district better and safer for Brentwood’s kids.

“Now my focus today is to take a look at the bigger picture behind all this,” she said, pressing officials to install cameras and hire guidance counselors and gang prevention counselors.

She asked board members why the current school budget contains allocations for a second high school principal, a public relations media specialist and a school lunch manager when other concerns, she said, are more important.

She said she phoned each of the district’s schools to see what kind of surveillance cameras were in place.

School officials said Thursday they are installing 253 cameras and hiring 11 more security personnel, to name a few measures adopted since the girls’ deaths.

“We’ve got to make a promise to these kids to make sure that they have the tools that they need in order to have a successful day,” Rodriguez said.

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