The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Hamburg School Board reviews school safety in wake of Florida shooting

Superintendent holds moment of silence for Parkland school shooting victims

By Arch Kurtz, For Digital First Media

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

School safety was the main topic at the Hamburg Area school director’s meeting on Feb. 26.

Before starting his report, Superintendent Dr. Richard Mextorf asked for a moment of silence for the 17 individuals who lost their lives on Feb. 14 in the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Mextorf then presented information regarding school safety in the district.

Some of the safety and security measures in place include secure entrances at all buildings and digital security cameras in all buildings and campuses.

Law enforcement has blueprints of all buildings, active shooter drills are done and safety plans were updated in the fall of 2017, according to Mextorf.

In the fall several programs were presented on the appropriate use of social media, including Janene Holter, special agent to the attorney general, who conducted a program on digital citizenship.

“Our number one priority is keeping our young people safe,” said Mextorf, who became emotional at times. “We’ve taken steps and will continue to take steps to keep our young people safe. We have great kids.”

Regarding social media and other methods of threats, Mextorf and law enforcement will determine if the threat is credible.

“If it’s credible, you’ll hear from me,” said Mextorf. “Facebook is not a credible news service.”

Parents and staff would be notified through the use of the district’s phone alert system, similar to when school schedules are effected by snow.

Mextorf noted that he has direct contact for emergencies to the Berks County District Attorney, chief county detective, Berks Crisis Response Team and local law enforcement.

“When something like this occurs we ask ourselves ‘have we done all we can do’,” Mextorf said. “We monitor daily and make sure that there’s a sense of calm.”

As for students’ reaction to the recent events Mextorf said that “they’re respectful and show a responsibility to take care of each other.”

In other news, school directors agreed to hire Cheryl Pishock, Schuylkill Haven, as a counselor at the middle school at a salary of $79,257.

Pishock fills a position that was vacant since the end of the last school year. The middle school has two counselors and more than 500 students.

School directors agreed to hire Sandra Klein-Borkey, Leesport, to a newly created position in the Special Education department at Tilden Elementary at a salary of $67,100.

“It’s a therapeutic emotional support role for kids who need us in a different way,” Mextorf said. “These kids are the most challenged. We’re building a program that fits their needs.

“We’re starting with one (student) and I anticipate about a half dozen. Dollars have been allocated in the budget.”

The next meeting of school directors is Monday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the James A. Gilmartin Community Room at the high school.