Baldwinsville Central School District Superintendent Matt McDonald kicked off the second year of his monthly Coffee and Conversation meetings last Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Baldwinsville Public Library. McDonald offered some insights into school security, transportation and other beginning-of-the-year topics.
Present at the meeting was Onondaga County Legislator Ken Bush (R-13th District). McDonald said Bush and his colleague, Legislator Brian May (R-1st District), helped the district secure two additional school resource officers for the year. The Baldwinsville Police Department informed the school district that it did not have the staff to provide two more SROs for Ray Middle School and the elementary schools, so McDonald contacted May, Bush and Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway to see if the sheriff’s office could help. As a result, two sheriff’s deputies will join the district’s roster of SROs.
“Education is a passion with me, so when you called about the SROs, that was key,” Bush said, adding that many of his family members have worked as teachers or in related fields.
Bush said the greater Baldwinsville area is a “dynamic” place to live, work and go to school, and investing in education ultimately helps the area as a whole.
“Success breeds success,” he said.
Bush said he is a member of the Onondaga County Legislature’s public safety and human services committees. He said the county provides some mental health services for other school districts, and while Baldwinsville contracts with Liberty Resources for counseling for students and families, he wants to look into what the county can do to help as well.
“No geographic boundary should be in the way [of getting help],” Bush said.
McDonald said district administrators will sit down with the four SROs in early October to discuss security procedures and the $4.3 million capital project for safety improvements, which voters approved in May.
Also on the safety and security front, teachers will participate in an active shooter simulation Nov. 9, which is a half day for students. Teachers from Ray, Durgee Junior High School and the five elementary schools will play the part of students in Baker teachers’ classrooms. Personnel from security consulting firm Armoured One will portray gunmen, and teachers will practice barricading classrooms, using escape routes and implementing other “run, hide, fight” strategies. Local emergency services agencies will take part in the drill as well.
McDonald said the training could be traumatic and not everyone will be able to participate, but staff members need to be prepared for emergency situations. He said future training refreshers will be less intensive.
In addition to discussing security at last Thursday’s meeting, McDonald reviewed the first few weeks of school from the transportation department’s perspective.
“For the first time, I did not get one phone call from transportation,” McDonald said of the first day of school.
So far, McDonald said, the district has not had issues with “misplaced” students, or kids who may have boarded the wrong bus, missed a stop or ended up back at the bus garage at the end of a route.
Transportation-wise, this school year is off to a much smoother start than last year, when the district mailed incorrect bus route information to parents the week before school started. In response to last year’s debacle, the district has implemented electronic software to manage bus routes. Parents can access bus route information through SchoolTool.
Parents who need to call the transportation department may notice an attitude adjustment. Last year, the district received complaints about the department’s customer service skills.
“Frankly, I’m disgusted by the way we’re treating each other and the way we treat customers and the community,” McDonald said at the March 15 Coffee and Conversation meeting. “The rollout with transportation [in the fall] did not go well for many reasons. I’m fixated on the morale and the way we treat people.”
During staff training before the beginning of the school year, the district applied principles from its Positivity Project character education program. The key phrase of the Positivity Project is #OtherPeopleMatter. Transportation staff even decorated a bulletin board with representations of character traits such as gratitude, kindness and leadership.
The next Coffee and Conversation meeting takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at the Baldwinsville Public Library. The session will feature the directors of curriculum and instruction, Tony Cardamone (K-6) and Renee Burnett (7-12), and Director of Athletics/Physical Education/Health Chris Campioleta.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.