New school security system just about ready to roll

Photo courtesy Belleville Public Schools Belleville schools ID cards are embedded with a radio frequency tracking mechanism.
Photo courtesy Belleville Public Schools
Belleville schools ID cards are embedded with a radio frequency tracking mechanism.


By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


The elaborate $2 million security system cooked up by the Belleville public school system is on the brink of being activated, school officials said.

No official starting date was offered but Superintendent of Schools Helene Feldman said recently that, “The security infrastructure has been laid down completely and we’re ready to roll.”

Elaborating, Board of Education President Joseph Longo said that, “Installation is complete. We’re just going through the process of testing it out to make sure all the parts are working. We’ll be operating on a rolling implementation.”

Responding to a query raised by an audience member during the board’s Feb. 24 meeting about metal detectors, Longo said: “We have two hand-held wands, one for the high school and one for the middle school, which can be used [at the school entrance] at the discretion of the school safety officer.”

The Belleville Education Association has attacked the BOE spending on the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) video tracking system – which is being spread out over five years – as misguided, saying that the board should be thinking, instead, about replacing outdated computer equipment essential to student learning.

At the Feb. 24 meeting, teacher Michael Dias said: “We simply do not have the tools necessary to do our jobs” and added that teachers couldn’t complete report cards for the current marking period because they couldn’t link up to the computer system.

But Feldman and Longo, in a recent interview with The Observer, said the board was actively involved in remedying the computer issues because they recognized how important they were to help deliver positive outcomes for students.

Indeed, Feldman said, “Technology is the only answer for children these days.”

At the Feb. 24 meeting, the board approved by a vote of 3-2, with two abstentions, contracting with Clarity Technologies Group of Mine Hill – the same firm handling the security system – “to provide outsourcing of the [district’s] Information Technology Department” for $20,000 per month, for five years.

Board members Jennifer Lombardi and Ray Kuebler opposed the award; Longo and Lillian Torres abstained; and John Rivera, William Freda and Peter Zangari Jr. voted in favor. Longo said he abstained because his son formerly worked for Clarity.

Longo said that Clarity proved its value to the district after the company was brought in as an “emergency vendor” in January 2013 to remedy malfunctioning or inoperative computers.

“When they came in, they found 950 open tickets [service requests] on individual machines,” Longo said. “They got that number down to 250. Now we’re down to about 100. They also fixed 16 printers. Now, they’re attacking one school at a time and not just looking at units ticketed for servicing – they’re doing triage and inventorying all equipment – dismantling, cleaning and upgrading – so we know what we have.”

Longo also credited the firm with arranging to install an anti-virus software and devising a storage system for email.

In other district developments, the board voted to create a new job of Assistant Business Administrator; upgrade Ricardo Acosta from interim principal to principal effective Feb. 25; accept the retirements of School 7 teacher Gioia Crawford, School 7 special needs teacher Jeanne Orefice, high school English teacher Salvatore Mauriello and assistant high school custodian William Forrest; and approve a new AP Human Geography social studies course.

Feldman said she and her staff are looking at the possibility of offering adult classes in cosmetology, TV studio and printing to the public in the evening.

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