School safety requires ongoing investment

Kara Nelson Baekey. (Aviva Maller Photography)

On Tuesday March 15, Mayor Harry Rilling submitted his FY23 Capital Budget Recommendation in alignment with the City charter. In addition to funding for instructional technology and fuel tank replacements, the Mayor’s recommendations included adding back the $600,000 originally requested by the Board of Education for security enhancements. Surprisingly, this critical line item had been eliminated in the capital budget recommendation made last month by the City’s chief financial officer.

As a long-time advocate for school safety, I was pleased to hear of the Mayor’s commitment to school safety. In the disruptions that we all endured during Covid, it was perhaps easy to put safety and security on the back burner. Our attention was directed towards positivity rates and hospitalizations, masking and quarantines, remote and hybrid learning.

As co-founder of the Connecticut chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an organization founded in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, I am keenly aware of the challenges that school boards and communities face in keeping schools safe. Over the years since the tragedy in Newtown, Norwalk Public Schools and other Connecticut school districts have been proactive in upgrading safety protocols and procedures, and finding ways to prevent or mitigate threats. But the reality is that this job is never done. Safety and security require continuous attention and investment.

Once funding is approved, Norwalk Public Schools and the Board of Education will finalize priority initiatives that will enhance our current systems. Priorities will include further securing our facilities, increasing cameras and the ability to monitor activity in and around school buildings, and ensuring that mechanisms are in place for effective and efficient communications. A specific action plan will be developed working with school safety experts, the City’s first responders, and the district’s Safety and Security Task Force.

Like my fellow Board members, I am passionate about making sure that all children have the opportunity to learn in safe and supportive environments. Safeguarding our students and staff should always be our highest priority. Norwalk’s commitment to funding school safety demonstrates that we, as a community, value our children and support our families. I thank Mayor Rilling for his leadership and support for school safety, and I encourage the Common Council to approve the full amount of the Board of Education’s capital budget request.



3 responses to “School safety requires ongoing investment”

  1. Ben G

    I think what would be really nice here, and what I would thank both the BOE and Mayor Rilling for, is if you both admit you spend money with absolutely no regard for the taxpayers of the city.

    I can’t imagine that any taxpayer in this city would want kids to go to school and not be safe. The overarching problem is that the BOE spends money like they are printing it at City Hall. If Norwalk families should have to prioritize what they spend money on, and not get everything they want all the time, than so should the BOE. Unfortunately this institution has turned into one that could be blamed for much of the cities current troubles instead of being one that can solve them.

  2. Kay Anderson

    Excellent piece. Hard to imagine any CT town cutting – much less eliminating- school safety enhancements. Hopefully Mayor Rilling will step up and explain this reality to his finance director, and ensure the Council approves the needed funds.

  3. M Murray

    Hard to imagine the district is serious about security. The eliminated the previous security director who had extensive knowledge in that area and replaced him with one of the Superintendent’s New York friends who had little security experience, and until 5 years prior was running a gym.

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