The school administration has initiated a policy of informing parents when school lockdowns occur, even if they may be merely precautionary. The policy arose after an incident at Cedar Hill School on Feb. 6.
“A lot came out of it in a positive sense,” Cedar Hill PTO president Catherine Costantino said Tuesday.Costantino said the school administration was receptive to her criticism in the wake of the school lockdown that was triggered when the father of a student banged on the school door and demanded to be let in. In an email to parents, Costantino was critical that parents learned of the incident from social media or their children and lacked information on what had happened. She called for improved communication. Costantino also noted that students were told the lockdown was a drill, questioning that logic and that several teachers were unable to lock classrooms as required.
Costantino said Superintendent Richard D’Agostino listened to her and was “not defensive” by what she had to say.
“Dr. Mercurio [school Principal Colleen Mercurio] and Dr. D’Agostino heard us out,” she said. “He’s gone above and beyond.”
After a review of what happened on Feb. 6, D’Agostino said, “There was sufficient cause for the lockdown.” He said the lockdown, which occurred while Mercurio was away from the school, followed protocol and he commended the staff on their actions.
“Everyone did what they were supposed to,” he said.
D’Agostino took issue that students and faculty had been told it was a drill and that as a practice drills are announced as drills.
“I don’t believe this is an accurate assessment,” he said. “They [drills] are not to be announced and we take every drill very seriously.”In situations where the lockdowns are genuine even if it turns out that they were not necessary, D’Agostino said parents would be notified through the department’s Connect-Ed system. He said that all teachers now have keys to lock their classroom doors.
In an email to parents, Costantino thanked those who emailed and called the administration with their concerns, adding, “They are listening to our concerns, goals and requests and plan to work with us positively in the coming months to make sure CHS remains the high quality and fun school that it is.”
The Monday following the lockdown, Mercurio provided parents with the details of what happened on Feb. 6, saying that the school secretary identified the parent seeking to gain access to the school as the man involved in an incident the day before. Doors remained locked. A lockdown was initiated and police were called.
According to police reports, the father said he was trying to deliver his child’s lunch. He also confirmed when asked to come to headquarters later that day that he had pounded on the rear door of the school bus delivering his child the day before. He also admitted to throwing a snowball but denied to having exposed his buttocks to the bus, as reported by students. He told police he purposely doesn’t wear a belt because of a hernia and apologized if his pants had slipped and offended anyone. He was charged with a count of disorderly conduct.
D’Agostino said the department had learned from the incident and that the measures taken will improve the system.
“At least we know from this experience that it works,” he said.
“It has certainly reassured me as a parent that safety is a priority to him and that communication is also very important and something he sees as an effective way to keep families informed and to keep families confident in the administration's decision-making choices,” Costantino wrote in an email.