"What happened in Newtown could happen anywhere," Briarcliff Manor Board of Education President Sal Maglietta said, "and that's what's really scary for everybody."
After calling for a moment of silence at the start of Monday's school bard meeting at Briarcliff Middle School, Maglietta went on to express the district's condolences to the Newtown, CT, community, as well as recognize the adults who died heroically attempting to protect the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday.
"We are all very saddened and don't know how to explain it, how to adjust to it, what to make of it, what does it mean? And our thoughts and our hearts and our prayers go out to the families of the victims, the friends, the community because they are in a situation that none of us can truly comprehend," he said. "There is no set of words that I or anybody else could say to give comfort to these people."
Maglietta went on to acknowledge that "there were six people in the Sandy Hook school—teachers, a janitor and principals (administration)—who gave their lives to protect the children."
"It gives you a reflection on the importance of our teachers and our administrators and our staff everyday who watch over our kids," he noted. "Because we know that they all care, just like those teachers and administrators did that day in Newtown in Sandy Hook."
This tragedy, Maglietta said, highlights the priority of the adults responsible for watching over children in Briarcliff Manor.
"The most important thing they do is [ensure] the safety is our children and their well-being every day," he said. "And that actually goes ahead of their education programs. Safety comes first."
Superintendent Neal Miller acknowledged the difficult decision for parents across the nation to allow their children to attend school on Monday, just days after the mass shooting.
"It was a very difficult start to the day," he said.
To prepare, "We met with our administrative team very early this morning," Miller shared. "They were meeting with their crisis teams right after that efore the school day got started. And they also met with their crisis and emergency teams at various times throughout the day. All the schools were involved in that."
Briarcliff Manor Police have had a presence in the schools since Friday, Miller added, and calls were made to the district's security consultant.
He said the district had already scheduled a security audit prior to the shooting and plans to have proposals for tightening measures further to the school board in the near future.
"I believe our security is strong and we are committed to making it stronger because, as Sal said, that is our number one priority—to keep this school environment conducive to learning," Miller said, "but you can only do that if students feel safe and teachers feel safe and staff feel safe. We are working on that very diligently."
Nadine McDermott, principal of Todd Elementary School, has already reached out to parents to let them know the building will be locked all day from now on.
"You will be buzzed in appropriately and the booth will be manned all day," Miller said. "Cars that come in will have to stop at the booth and will be asked why they are there...this is something that we feel very strongly about."
While Miller said parents were relieved to see additional security and a police presence at the schools Monday ("They felt a lot more comfortable"), the district will continue meeting with its security consultant this week.
"The sadness is just incomprehensible," he said.