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Monti rocks its security

Security is a top priority at the Monticello School District

March 15, 2018

Security. It is certainly utmost in the minds of parents, students and staff given the regularity of violence at schools throughout the country.

Nelson Quinones, the Monticello Central School Districts School Safety and Security Supervisor, wants all to know that this district is using technology that is a cut above what many others have. And they are using it to its full potential.

“Our technology is a cut above probably every district up here,” said Quinones from his office at RJK Middle School. “We monitor the buildings all day long.”

Quinones sits at a desk with five screens in front of him, some very large. On them, are real-time images taken from “hundreds of cameras” throughout the district, changing every few seconds.

In addition to monitoring inside of each building, Quinones said the doors to each of the five Monticello schools are locked all day. And the district’s visitor management system is exceptional.

“We have layers to our visitor management system,” said Quinones. “Each visitor must show their driver’s license (or other state-issued identification). We scan it against a national registry and then against our School Tools to make sure he or she is permitted to be here. Access control is taken very seriously. We challenge those who need to be challenged.”

Quinones leads a team of 20 security personnel, which includes two active police officers, here at the district. School personnel are in contact every day with law enforcement to update SchoolTool in case something changed from the day before. He recently requested a third school resource officer, which the school board is considering.

In a new layer of security, Quinones said he is setting up local law enforcement with full access to the district buildings. The Monticello Police Department, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department and the New York State Police will each receive access cards, keys and the full layout of all buildings in case of an emergency.

“It’s an idea I had a long time ago,” he said. “I call myself the ‘what if’ guy. It’s like chess – you have to anticipate several moves ahead.”

It’s not just Quinones and his security people who practice preparedness. School staff and students do too. He said that is key to a successful safety plan.

“It’s all about communication,” Quinones said. “We pride ourselves on awareness. Without increased training and awareness, no emergency plan will be effective.”

That awareness includes training and drills. Everyone is involved in the drills, from the smallest kindergartener to the most senior teachers. Quinones explained there are five mandated drills, remembered with the acronym SHELL – Shelter in place, Hold in place, Evacuate, Lockout and Lockdown.

The state requires a minimum of 12 drills each year, but, Quinones said, “We do more.”

“With increased awareness comes the calm,” he said. “The kids know what to do because we drill. They know exactly what they are supposed to do.”

Quinones himself holds various certifications in the field of safety and security. He works on a regular basis with the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Emergency Management to keep up on new tactics and technology.

“We are here to keep everyone safe and to allow teaching and learning to go on,” said Quinones. “We have to treat our workplace like home. We have to protect our children. We’re okay here as long as we all work together.”