By Stephen E. Lipken
Over 1,000 anxious New Rochelle High School (NRHS) parents, students, residents, educators and friends of the Schwab family poured into the high school’s Whitney Young Auditorium and overflow room at a forum hosted by City District of New Rochelle (CDNR) on Tuesday, January 23 to try to find answers about school security in line with the recent tragic events, including the fatal stabbing of NHRS student Valaree Schwab, 16 at the Dunkin’ Donuts store on North Avenue on Wednesday, January 10th.
Board of Education President Rachel Relkin opened the meeting requesting a Moment of Silence for Ms. Schwab and the two shooting deaths at Marshall County High School in Kentucky on Tuesday, January 23rd.
Parents expressed trepidation about sending their children back to school. Students shared their fear to return themselves.
Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) parents sold tee-shirts in the lobby with the assuring slogan, #NewRoStrong,” with proceeds going to NRHS Anti-Violence and Mental Health Service Programs.
“We realize that many violent incidents in New Rochelle have shaken out community,” Relkin said. “We must not lose sight that these three incidents do not define us…Our goals for tonight include: 1) Providing direct answers to questions that many of you have already asked…we hope to provide answers; 2) Providing a clear description of how the Board is responding to recent events; and 3) Hearing and attempting to address all additional concerns.”
“At this time, I have directed that students not leave the school during lunch and free periods until further notice,” CDNR Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian G. Osborne stated. “In addition, the student accused of stabbing another pupil in the classroom has not been apprehended…The closed campus policy will be enforced until the top to bottom independent audit is completed.”
At the meeting on the 23rd, Superintendent Osborne stated that searches of students would take place based upon random computerization, not by “snap judgement,” of any one individual to ensure they were conducted free of bias. Since that meeting, Osborne has lifted the random search order according to his letter recently posted on nred.org
Councilman Jared Rice remarked that he and fellow Councilman Lou Trangucci have been working on policing with proper staffing levels, proper and implicit bias training.
On January 29, more than 15 local business owners along North Avenue met in a roundtable discussion with Mayor Noam Bramson, City Manager Charles B. Strome III, Acting Police Commissioner Joseph Schaller, Interim Assistant Superintendent of Schools Amy Goodman and City Council Members regarding increased security levels at the high school and enhanced Police presence on the street.
“Local businesses are a vital part of the family of New Rochelle, and this meeting was an important opportunity to hear directly from them,” said Bramson. “We had a constructive discussion focused on how we can all work together to keep North Avenue safe and thriving.”
“Our message to businesses was that if they see something, they should say something to the New Rochelle Police Department,” stated Strome. “We briefed businesses on new police initiatives to keep North Avenue safe and gave them direct lines of communication to the police department and city to address any questions.”
“New Rochelle's business owners, families and City Government are working together as a team to ensure our city is safe, secure and thriving,” said Councilman Jared Rice. “This meeting was a productive opportunity to hear from business owners, particularly around the area of community policing.”
Goodman stressed that the School District is working with the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health. “Counseling is available at the School with additional BOCES counseling available.”
“It was important for the School District to directly hear businesses’ concerns and brief them on the steps we are taking to keep students safe,” said Goodman. “We are committed to working with parents, businesses, and city officials, to keep students safe and promote a safe business community.”
“We believe in New Rochelle and vision as far as the infrastructure is being developed. Now that the School District is listening to our voices and starting to implement some of the measures that they should have been enforcing for a while, I think that we will be just fine,” Century 21 realtor Anthony Marciano averred.