On January 18th the New Rochelle Board of Education hired Vigilant Resources International (VRI) to perform a “Threat Risk and Vulnerability Assessment” of all the district’s schools as well as the district’s administrative offices at City Hall. The cost of the service is $39,500.
VRI is a well regarded security firm founded by Howard Safir, the former Policy Commissioner of New York City.
I applaud the School Board for moving quickly on this. However, it was a confusing decision coming just days after the Board posted the following message to parents on the District’s website:
“The Board of Education has directed that there be a complete review of security procedures and safety plans so that we are as well prepared as possible to prevent any incidents in our schools. We are speaking with the security risk managers at the New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal (a municipal reciprocal insurance company owned by its component school districts, including New Rochelle) and other agencies about conducting a complete review of perimeter and interior security in every school building, which will include a review of doors, windows, staffing, staff training, response procedures, and other security measures. “
According to the New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal’s website, they provide similar services free of charge to all of their members. It is unclear why our Board of Education chose to pay for this service from an outside firm rather than let the insurance company do it. Further, it is quite disheartening that we have not used these free services in the past. Among the many services offered are:
- An annual risk assessment of the district’s facilities, operations and activities followed by a report listing practical suggestions for improving safety;
- Additional visits to evaluate specific facilities such as playgrounds and gymnasiums;
- A student incident report program to help the administration identify trends by location, activity and cause; and
- Staff training for playground and cafeteria monitors, custodians and school security.
When asked about this, John Quinn, Assistant Superintendent of Business Administration replied as follows:
“We did look at NYSIR as an option for providing the service and I’m sure we will be using them for providing some of the service, but they don’t provide as much in depth as VRI would be. We did speak to them, they provide similar services but it would be over the course of approximately two days and so they suggested that we get an outside service and we could then use NYSIR as ancillary. So it’s not as in depth.”
Separately, while the Board has moved quickly to begin the security assessment and distribute building-level safety plans in draft form, the district level safety plan remains out of date and the Board has been unwilling or unable to say who is on the team that would update that plan. The 2009 district wide safety plan lists team members who have not served in that function for some time.
Adam Egelberg, CFA