Mahopac Schools Upgrade Security Presence

Mahopac Schools Upgrade Security Presence

Mahopac Schools Upgrade Security Presence

Posted on May 16, 2022

MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Mahopac schools are taking part in what officials call “best practices” by employing the services of an outside security firm to work alongside its resource officers and monitors.

“Some years ago, the conversation started about security throughout the district and the high school [in particular],” said Gary Ziegelhofer, assistant principal at the high school, during a recent “Spotlight on Mahopac” online video. “The high school is like a town hall. There are so many activities that go on there. So, what are we doing with security and what are we doing when kids are there to be at the best security level that we can be?”

Ziegelhofer said one of the first things Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo did when he came on board five years ago was to bring more SPOs into the district. But school officials said even more was needed.

“At the high school we have a lot of students, a lot of movement with kids coming and going, late arrivals, early dismissals—1,400 kids a day moving around, plus staff,” Ziegelhofer said. “Through the guidance of BOCES and through our administrative staff visiting other high schools, it became apparent that security firms are what a lot of districts are using now as an augment from just police or monitors. These people have high certification supplied by the state. They have a different [way of] looking at the grounds and how to approach situations or how people entering the building may be looked at... making people there aware that someone is looking at them with a different lens and how they approach situations. Someone can now step in who is not a monitor and not a police officer, who are not really taught how to deal with certain situations like a security officer might be.”

Ziegelhofer said the new security personnel wear black uniforms with “security” on the back and are present at entry points throughout the building.

“They are also there after hours—their hours are a lot different,” DiCarlo added. “At 2 p.m. our monitors’ day is over and they are going home, but the building is still running. This security allows us to still be monitoring floors. One officer stays until 6 o’clock. They can walk through and make sure there is nothing of concern going on.”

DiCarlo said Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES helped the district with its decision to add another layer of security.

“BOCES has a big presence in how we formulated our overall security and safety plan,” the superintendent said. “Having these layers of SROs, SPOs, monitors and security is best practices [these days]. We are really in line with what some of the best practices are in the region and around the country.”

DiCarlo said rumors throughout the district that some have lost their jobs because of the hiring of the security firm are untrue.

“We have been trying to right-size the district as people are retiring and looking to repurpose some of the positions,” he said. “Nobody has lost any jobs. There is a lot of innuendo out there that we are letting monitors go and people are losing their jobs. Absolutely not. Those are two separate roles—what a monitor does and what a security person does.”

Ziegelhofer said the district did its due diligence in picking the security firm it would use.

“There were many firms we could choose from,” he said. “It was a deep dive picking the best capable group that fit our needs and [those of] our community.”

DiCarlo said that in the wake of the pandemic, the extra layer of security has proved more valuable than ever.

“When we had COVID and were doing remote [learning] and hybrid, it was a different atmosphere here,” he said. “But now that we are getting back to near normal some of the kids have to realize they can’t go back to doing the things they did before COVID. We have seen an uptick in vaping and that’s unacceptable. We take that very seriously.”

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