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Manalapan-Englishtown Schools Announce New Security Procedures

Parents must call the school 30 minutes prior to entering the building, lockdown magnets have been installed, and the annual Halloween Parade has been canceled.

The Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District (MERS) has announced several changes in security and safety procedures that have been prompted by the harrowing killings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

Hours after the Connecticut school shooting, the Manalapan Police Department contacted the district and informed them that they would be heightening security presence by having a police officer at each of the district schools at the beginning and end of the day. Random walk throughs by police officers were also coordinated and police were told to patrol the school parking lots while on duty. In order to help with this, Manalapan Township hired two Special II part-time officers, who have recently finished their training.

District principals, and administrators from the local private schools, attended a township security meeting with Captain Michael Fountain of the Manalapan Police Department on Dec. 19. The police department reviewed their aspect of the emergency management plan.

Lockdown magnets were installed in all district buildings by Jan. 7,  MERS Superintendent John J. Marciante, Jr. announced at the district's public hearing on school security Tuesday night. These magnets allow for every classroom to be locked down in a quicker fashion so that the teacher does not have to use her key. Police found donors within in hours and were able to raise $3,000 for the purchase of the magnets.

The district’s emergency management plan was reviewed immediately after the shooting occurred on Dec. 14, Marciante said. An administrative meeting dedicated to the emergency management plan procedures and security review was held on Jan. 10.

The principal of each school assessed the security of their building prior to the holiday break and presented their recommendations to Vince Pietrucha, the Director of the Physical Plant. Pietrucha toured the schools with Sonitrol, the district’s private security company, and all recommendations were looked into, according to Marciante.

Improvements to district security proposed by Sonitrol were approved by the Board of Education on Jan. 8 and the Board committed to funding the security improvements project at a cost of $54,769.

The improvements include:

  • enhanced video surveillance
  • upgraded cameras
  • stronger direct connects to the security firm
  • a decrease in emergency response time
  • the ability to network the access to cameras/DVR to increase access to key individuals


Marciante said that he will recommend the Board invite an independent private security company to overview the district security after all of the improvements have been made in order to ensure nothing was overlooked.

“When I think of security I think of access,” Marciante said, noting that the district will now know who will be coming into the school buildings at all times as all visitors must call the school thirty minutes prior to approaching the building.

Every child in the school building will provide three to four names of approved individuals who can enter the school for that person. One of these approved individuals must call the school, they will be put on a list of people expected to arrive at the building, and then when they arrive they will say their name and be able to enter the building. If you are not on the list, you will not be allowed to enter the school, the superintendent explained.

“It is inconvenient, I understand that,” Marciante said, ”but it makes it more secure and it allows us to control access to the building.”

Principals of each school are currently reviewing the security protocol at large-scale school events such as graduations and field days. The principals will be presenting the superintendent with ideas on how to enhance safety measures at these events.

Additionally, because no plan to handle a crisis during the the district’s annual Halloween Parade is currently in place, and the principals can not think of an idea that guarantees a secure environment, Marciante said that he has decided to cancel the yearly parade.

Security after-school hours is also a major concern, Marciante said.The superintendent has contacted Mona Cholowinski, the director of the Manalapan Parks and Recreation Department, to discuss security on district property during after school hours.

“After 3:40 p.m. and people start using our buildings, I have no control over what happens,” Marciante said. “The security in the afternoons is not the same and that has to change.”

Finally, an ad hoc security committee has been created. This committee, run by Board Vice President Dotty Porcaro, will be able to meet with the Board of Education to discuss security issues and concerns. Parents interested in joining the ad hoc committee should contact the superintendent at jmarciante@mers.k12.nj.us.

Realisticmomandteacher January 18, 2013 at 12:11 AM
Last week, the power went out in manalapan HS . My daughter told me she and other classmates were wandering around dark hallways. Teachers gave them conflicting orders on where to go .just go to your next class. They came upon a friend sitting all ALONE in a classroom. Blackout to me spells LOCKDOWN. procedures ? Apparently there weren't any.
another manalapan mom January 18, 2013 at 12:50 AM
The Halloween parade it totally unnecessary. The safety of our children is paramount.
Mother, teacher and coach January 18, 2013 at 01:41 AM
Why don't you just lock your child in their bedrooms all day and throw away the key! Just a little over protective, don't you think? There's a reason why Governor Christie hasn't mentioned gun control. New Jersey hasn't had any issues with mentally ill youngsters having a shooting spree in the state, not to be ignorant and say it can't happen to us, but the only prevention is to make sure someone legally is carrying a firearm and is able to stop an individual from killing our children. Cameras will not prevent a looney from entering a building and going crazy. A police officer will Definately be a deterrent, so would an armed teacher! Taking Halloween away from the children is ridiculous. What's next, no field day, picnics, or recess? Stop using poor judgement and make our children feel that they are safe without changing their holiday affairs! Celebrations indoor and outdoors shouldn't change, how we post the teachers, volunteers, PTO, and administration should be looked at more closely.
the font January 18, 2013 at 01:57 AM
For those who think much was implemented, there was. Perhaps, it is over the top. I would rather go a bit 'overboard' then not do enough. God forbid if some monster was able to do anything. Children come first, not reactive hysteria aimed at the folks trying to do right by our kids. Something tells me the same folks complaining now would be the first to yell if something happened.
Laura January 18, 2013 at 01:58 AM
Does anyone know if there was any talk about shatter free glass windows? I personally would love to have an armed police officer in all the schools.
Claudine Scozzari January 18, 2013 at 01:32 PM
You mean because the gunman failed to use the front door.
Claudine Scozzari January 18, 2013 at 01:34 PM
Without the Halloween parade, there will be money in the budget for the necessary changes to our life, like not having recess outside.
Joiseymom January 18, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Armed guards/cops are not going to work either. They were there at Colombine. Did it work?
Joiseymom January 18, 2013 at 03:46 PM
ANother insane ridiculous idea. Guns have no place in school, especially not in a teachers hands. Bad enough people want armed police in our schools. Then what happens when the teacher goes rogue??
Joiseymom January 18, 2013 at 03:47 PM
Thank you. It is nice to know I am not the only sane, rational thinking mom in Manalapan!
Joiseymom January 18, 2013 at 03:49 PM
Yes, the parades are unnecessary, and a waste of time (but I went to everyone all four of my kids participated in). But they will no be safer without it. You do realize your kids are outside 2x a day getting off and on buses?? How do you fix that? How do you stop someone from shooting through the windows? Do we never let our kids play on the playground again? THINK? Be rational and use some common sense.
Joiseymom January 18, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Do you want barbed wire around the schools and fences to keep ppl out? How about armored buses with bullet proof windows? You want to buy a car that way? What about your house, you want to build a panic room there? You do realize you have a higher chance of dying in a car accident then someone attacking your kids at school?
Joiseymom January 18, 2013 at 03:58 PM
Armed guards and bullet proof glass and keeping our kids locked away is not the answer. Banning all guns is not the answer. Better control for who gets guns and they types of guns sold and ammunition should be looked into. But what needs to happen is better mental health care. The fact that there are dangerous mentally sick people out on the streets, and kids in homes that even people with insurance can't get help for. The insurance only covers a certain very short period of time, which doesn't include the time they need to help the individual. Police also can't do anything until the individual harms themselves or others. Their hands are tied. That is where the effort needs to be made. Also, parents should stop worrying about safety of kids and look at what your kids are doing. Are they looking up how to make explosives on the internet? Are they hiding guns in the basement and you have no idea? There is a lot that has to be done..but making schools into mini prisons to protect our kids isn't the answer.
SLB January 18, 2013 at 04:25 PM
Guns have no place in schools huh? I guess Adam Lanza and the Kleebold in Columbine never got that memo..funny. You're right, when someone comes in with bad intentions, it's better our children get slaughtered until the police happen to show up 20 minutes later. Joiseymom, you are thinking emotionally, and it's because you probably only know "Jersey" and are petrified of guns, perhaps never even held one before. The only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun is another gun. If you don't think that's true, tell me, when someone breaks into your home, what do you do? You either call the police (they have guns) or you shoot the guy yourself. Otherwise, you are a lamb awaiting slaughter. That's your choice, not mine. What you don't understand about NJ is right now, you brush shoulders with people carrying guns (illegally) every day. The only people with guns are criminals. You just don't know it. So the fact that you are scared of having shall-issue concealed carry permits in NJ is hilarious, because all that would do is put guns in the hands of trained, background checked, law abiding citizens. Make a decision, the status quo where only criminals have guns? or CC for law abiders where the good guys can keep them in check? If that scares you, I suggest you bolt your front door and never walk out of your house, because in NJ, you are walking around as a victim awaiting to be assaulted. If you hate guns, please, don't ever call the cops to be consistent.
SLB January 18, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Your notion of a teacher "goes rogue" is actually easily explained by a psychology concept. It's called "projection" in this case, negative projection. If I put a gun in front of you, do you think you would be incapable of controlling yourself, and that you would pick it up and just start shooting people? I'll venture to say you wouldn't. Why is it that you think, if you put the gun in someone else's hand, that they are too stupid to realize what they should and should not do with it? Do you think you are just smarter than everyone? No one else but you knows how to responsibly handle a dangerous tool? Concealed carry permits only go to those who go through training, extensive background checks, and mental health checks. 41 states in the country have these shall issue laws, and there is no rash of crime sprees committed by these people. Gun deaths are perpetrated by criminals who typically either steal guns or own them illegally. Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the nation, yet it has the highest incidence of gun deaths?? How is that possible with your logic? Guns are illegal, yet they have more gun crime! Funny you don't hear about wonton gang related gun deaths in Texas, Wyoming, or Idaho. And everyone there is armed to the teeth. You have to step out of your Jersey mindset. Don't know if you ever hang out in Newark or Camden, you better believe everyone is packing there, illegally, without training or background check.Wouldn't you rather good people balance them?
SLB January 18, 2013 at 04:39 PM
No restriction on guns will ever solve gun crimes, and that's what you don't understand. The people committing crimes with guns are statistically done due to gang violence and handguns, not rifles. That shows how disingenuous our politicians and journalists are. If they truly wanted to stop gun deaths, statistically the most used type of firearm for crime is a handgun. But you don't hear them clamoring about that. You hear all this talk about "assault" rifles, which in it of itself doesn't mean anything and is a scary term meant to instill fear in those who are uninformed about guns. If you put further restrictions on guns, who do you think will obey them?? Think about it and be honest with yourself. Is the gangbanger in newark going to stop carrying his illegal Glock because the magazine capacity is too high? Or is it the responsible enthusiast? Which of these two people was going to commit a crime to begin with? You can place all the laws you want. Law abiders will obey them and never were the problem. The criminals don't care and will continue to disobey them. Once Adam Lanza stole his guns , all the laws in the world don't matter! No law can stop someone from stealing, it's already illegal to steal!! So placing MORE restrictions on the GOOD people who own guns for REAL purposes (recreation/defense) only prevents good people from defending themselves. Funny how people don't squirm when they see an armed cop, but armed citizens PETRIFIES them. ignorance
Joiseymom January 18, 2013 at 05:45 PM
@slb: Where do I say I hate guns? LOL, two of my sons own guns and one is a similar rifle to what Adam Lanza used, and the other son plans on buying one, if he can. They also both have carry permits for those states that allow them. What I said was that guns do not belong in schools, and they don't. You do realize that Colombine had armed guards in their school at the time? It didn't help now did it. And the response time to the school if anything horrific were to happen isn't 20 minutes at all. I am not being emotional at all, I am being rational and using common sense. The chances of this happening in our schools is so minimal. Could it happen? Yes, I could win tonights power ball too. A meteor could hit my house. Anything is possible. But is it probable? No it isn't. So these knee jerk reactions of guns in schools, and cops there, and getting rid of all the guns are all irrational, and they WON"T stop it from happening again somewhere.
Joiseymom January 18, 2013 at 06:02 PM
@SLB: No, my notion of a teacher going rogue is as least likely to happen as will another shooting in a school. The chances are there, but when where?? Who knows. Teachers are human beings and have really rough jobs, and I don';t want them in my kids schools at all. They have a chance of breaking down and could also have issues no on knows about. They shouldn't have guns in the classroom They don't belong there. People are human and that is in my opinion asking for something to happen. Where did you get your info about the training and extensive background checks on concealed carry permits?? I am sure most of these states they aren't that extensive. I think it is quite easy to get concealed permits in a bunch of those states. One of my sons has one from Florida and he didn't even go there to get it. Heavy training?? Umm...my son goes to the range, and I am sure he passed soemthing, but nothing major. Granted my other son is military so he does have lots of real training. Hmm..did the football player that killed his wife and himself recently have an illegal gun? Did the Colorado movie killer have illegal guns? No, the didn't. But I am not anti gun. ANd yes, most guns out there are illegal and used for crime. But that isn't what we are discussing here. LOL... my Jersey mindset? I was born and raised in good ole NYC, Brooklyn to be exact and I grew up in the projects.
Joiseymom January 18, 2013 at 06:09 PM
@SLB: Again, I am not anti gun. But what purpose does an AK47 have for hunting? Certain guns have no purpose other then killing, and not animals. So putting limits on certain ones does not take away citizens rights to be armed. And Adam Lanza didn't go to a stranger and steal guns. These were guns that were in HIS home, that he had used at the ranges with his mother. They were obviously easy for him to obtain. And again, we are not discussing illegal gun gangbanger crime. That is a different situation and won't change since there will always be a way for illegal guns to be obtained. But really, what is a normal Joe gonna do with an AK47 or something similar??
SLB January 18, 2013 at 06:28 PM
Respectfully Joiseymom, you are missing the point. First of all, the 2nd amendment has nothing to do with hunting. The word hunting is nowhere in the bill of rights. Do you know its purpose? The founding fathers had just risked their lives against a crown that wanted to tax them without representation and seize their gunpowder. They fought against a tyrannical government, and knowing they just risked their lives to defeat this, they wanted to insure the new public could EQUAL any further govt in firepower in order to prevent further tyrannical control. It has nothing to do with hunting or animals. I have that florida CCW you are referring. I also lived in CT and had their CCW permit. We are talking about NJ specifically, but for your purposes...did you know Adam Lanza tried to buy a gun in CT and wasn't able to? (due to the already VERY strict laws). He had to resort to STEALING guns. Now, there is a separate debate to be had about his mother's responsibility in leaving her guns accessible to him. But that isn't the debate we are having. In CT, you DO need to undergo NRA training, background checks, references, and mental health checks to get a CCW permit. I know because I did it. Adam Lanza NEVER would have gotten past any of these measures due to his mental illness. Your line proves my point: "That is a different situation and won't change since there will always be a way for illegal guns to be obtained." Bingo, so why bother restricting the law abiders?
SLB January 18, 2013 at 06:34 PM
The point is, the laws on hand already prevented Adam Lanza from legally obtaining a gun. he had to resort to stealing them, which is illegal. He broke the law. Having a law against stealing didn't stop the massacre. Laws don't prevent crimes, they only define them. So its insanity that people think the more laws you define, that suddenly sick people will obey them and stop? He broke the law by stealing the gun, then he unlawfully transported his firearms without a permit, then he brought guns into a "gun free zone". How many laws does he have to break before you realize no amount of laws you create will deter a sicko like this? As for Columbine, thanks for bringing that up, because those officers saved lives http://www.examiner.com/article/fact-check-columbine-high-s-armed-guard-saved-student-lives I don't know how you think you stop a crazed madman with a gun..offer a hug? challenge him to chess? You stop him with a bullet in his head, hopefully before he can hurt innocent children and adults
Manalapan res January 18, 2013 at 06:41 PM
So, we should just wait around for someone do do something about mental health care? Sure, given how things progress in this country, that should happen when --- tomorrow?? People are just looking for a way to mitigage risk. "parents should stop worrying about the safety of kids"??? If office buildings deserve security guards, as well as MALLS, why don't the places where our children go for most of the day deserve security beyond secretaries? Don't we have a responsibility as a community to keep our children safe? So, then we shouldn't have put any security screenings at airports after 911, because there are still ways around blowing up planes? But, I guess we're screwed on all accounts. There could be a solar flare.
Manalapan res January 18, 2013 at 06:46 PM
I'm wondering about your 'tax-free response" theory. Who would pay to have administrators and teachers background checked, trained and armed? What if Miss Bindergarten didn't feel comfortable volunteering to pack heat while reading the "Three Little Pigs"? Then what?
SLB January 18, 2013 at 07:23 PM
A NICS check costs I believe $15. Having someone in a database search your SS# and hit enter is not expensive and happens millions of times a day. Right now the applicants pay the fees for those who get a CCW and it is not exorbitant. If anything, I would support administrators and voluntary employees of the school district to have the very cheap background check paid for, as opposed to paying for a few cops who have a huge salary and a bloated pension. We are talking about $200 of administrative work annually vs $200,000 of union salary and pension benefits to pay for 2-3. You choose.
Jerry January 19, 2013 at 04:41 AM
Whenever "non-educators" express opinions or present ideas about curriculla and other aspects of what our kids should be learning (or not learnig) in school, the "education professionals" are typically the first to ridicule these ideas as coming from "outsiders". The story talks about the Principals developing and presenting their security ideas to the Director of the Physical Plant, The BOE VP developing a security committee, the Halloween Parade being cancelled because the principals (again) couldn't think of a way to provide the necessary security, etc. Almost as a throw away line it is mentioned that Dr. Marciante will "recommend the Board invite an independent private security company to overview the district security after all of the improvements have been made in order to ensure nothing was overlooked". This should be the first step, not the last step. Why are we asking principals and others to develop a plan for a field where they have no expertise? By the way, IMHO, hopefully SLB is not part of the Ad-hoc committee or we'll have our Kindergarten children packing more than their lunch.
DAD January 19, 2013 at 05:47 AM
What if we had police security at each entrance to the schools for the Halloween parade. Each parent can notify the teachers that they wish to attend. The teacher will get the license plate number, color and model of car. A pre-approved pass can be emailed with there name, student ID #, and make, model and license plate. Etc. They can present it to security before entering. It is time consuming, but I think our kids are worth once a year. If it is still a problem the parade can happen in the hallways maybe break it up by floors. Just a thought.
Jerry January 19, 2013 at 01:55 PM
Clarification to my earlier post. After re-reading it comes across as too negative. It was meant as an observation / suggestion. Im certain that the BOE will be doing its due diligence. As the debate continues all over it is obvious that there is no easy answer. Good luck to those tasked with developing a reasonable operable plan.
Claudine Scozzari January 19, 2013 at 04:16 PM
To DAD - You want parents in MONMOUTH COUNTY to provide vehicle license plates to a law enforcement that can run through the State of NJ DMV/ NJ MVC computers. Last I heard, hell has not frozen over yet. This community has a problem with street parking because a good portion of the vehicles being driven aren't legal. Parking and where you park in this community is a major issue. The Freehold Regional High School District is a community known throughout the State for their "football field" parking lots.
DAD January 19, 2013 at 04:23 PM
Claudine If they want to see their kids enjoy halloween they will voluntarily give that information for the safety of their children. If they don't want to, they opt out of going to the parade. Its that simple. I was only speaking about halloween.
Claudine Scozzari January 19, 2013 at 04:40 PM
I am young enough to remember that major change the Kerri Marsala mentions in the Jan. 19, 2013 article about changes in parents calling the schools 30 minutes prior to picking up their child at school. And, at the time of the initial discussions, there should have been armed guards protecting the homes of all of the educators in this community from the uproar of parents who had a problem with this new security measure. On that being said, the parents who truly care about the safety of the children, the time frame should be changed to 1 hour call ahead to school. If there is true emergency such as an accident where the child needs to be with the family and the removal from school needs to immediate, have a law enforcement officer call the school district for the parent. And, make the police officer provide a badge number and a case number for the removal of the child. If a parent hasn't planned for an activity such as a doctor's appointment by notifying the school district, the child should not be removed from the school. It is the JOB of the student to be attentive and learn. Let the student's do their JOBS.

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