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School Chief Proposes Extra Security Spending in Wake of Newtown Shooting

With a focus on safety in the district, Superintendent Salvatore Menzo presented a budget to the Wallingford Board of Education that asks for a proposed $665,300 to address security enhancements.

The budget Superintendent of Schools Dr. Salvatore Menzo presented to the Board of Education last week includes a sustained increase of 2.54 percent and a second budget — this, tied to the district’s strategic goals — that, if fully implemented, would raise the budget by 8.94 percent over the monies spent this fiscal year.

The two budgets total $91.85 million and $97.69 million, respectively, with the second budget addressing security concerns that arose in the wake of the shootings in Newtown last month.  

Of the sum in the second proposed budget hike, which totals $5.75 million more than the district’s spending this fiscal year, $665,300 addresses security enhancements the district developed after the Newtown shootings last month. 

“We’re keeping it as vague as possible because we don’t want to compromise the enhancements,” said Menzo on Thursday of the security measures the strategic budget addresses. He said the enhancements fell into broad areas, such as access control and communications.   

Slated for installation before the Newtown tragedy was the continued upgrade of the intercom system in schools throughout the district—information, he said, he had shared with parents just on Wednesday.  Also previously approved — and, again, Menzo said, shared with parents — was an enhancement of the process by which district staff gain access to school buildings.

Menzo said the security measures the district will choose not to detail in full are those where public knowledge would compromise their effectiveness.

He said the introduction of a variety of security enhancements has become the norm in the budgets school districts across the state have proposed as the budget season begins to unfold, citing the school district in Glastonbury as an example.

“The whole idea is to keep our buildings — and students — safe,” Menzo said.

He conceded that matters of security are a balance. The district, for instance, has a police presence at some events that are open to the public, such as its athletic events. 

“We want to continue that positive relationship with the community,” he said, noting that the school district also opens its buildings for events sponsored by groups such as the Parks and Recreation Department. “It’s a balance. All these security measures are a balance between safety and keeping the building open to the public.”

Menzo noted that, with regard to security, the police and fire departments in Wallingford have been “extraordinarily supportive.”

He noted that parents have also been very supportive. On Dec. 28, for instance, he said that parents with backgrounds in the FBI or security systems had joined himself and some members of the school board at a meeting. 

“They really helped us develop a plan,” he said, noting that these were people who could view the strides that the Wallingford district can take both as parents and professionals. “That was probably one of the most valuable discussions I’ve had thus far on the topic,” he said.

This is the third budget season that the central office has produced a sustained and also a strategic budget. Dr. Menzo said he initiated the two-track system when he became superintendent four years ago.   

The sustained budget documents the expenditures necessary to continue school operations as they currently exist. The strategic budget is oriented toward the district’s strategic plan — this, an omnibus plan of the district’s mission, goals and ways to implement them that the Wallingford school district now develops every three years and reviews three times each year.

The Board of Education will begin its review of the central office budgets at a workshop that is open to the public this Sat., Jan. 26 at 8 a.m. in the Vo-Ag Community Room at Lyman Hall High School, according to the Office of the Superintendent.

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