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Brentwood has right man setting safety measures

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Elroy Elementary School Principal Amy Burch shows off entry way and Raptor Visitor Management System that will scan the identifications of all visitors entering Brentwood Borough School District schools this year.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Elroy Elementary School Principal Amy Burch shows off the new list of rules that will be on display for all visitors entering Brentwood Borough School District schools this year.

Valid ID required.

Visitors headed to the classroom to pick up their child or drop off a forgotten book bag at Brentwood Borough schools this year will be asked to remove their hoods and sunglasses and present a state identification card prior to entering the building.

Once inside a locked foyer, they will be asked to hand their ID to the school secretary, who is positioned behind a secure window. He or she will scan the card, running the person's information through a national database, before printing a pass that allows the visitor to enter the building.

All of these measures, added this summer, are geared to boost safety for students and staff in the Brentwood Borough School District, where classes started on Monday.

“We're keeping tabs on who's around our children,” said Joseph Kozarian, Brentwood Borough School District director of security and facilities.

Kozarian serves as the district's school resource officer and the Region 3 director for the Hoover, Ala.-based National Association of School Resource Officers, where he oversees operations in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. “We're just putting barriers up to keep the ‘bad guys' out.”

Security upgrades — in the form of building changes at the entrances of the three Brentwood school facilities and additional technology — were added this summer, costing about $60,000, Kozarian said. Most of the work — changing entrance ways and office areas — was completed by district maintenance crews in a cost-saving effort. Even the furniture that was added was purchased used in an effort to reduce spending.

Kozarian, a certified police officer who implemented a school police program in the Brentwood district in 2002, said he approached the school board making changes in the school buildings after the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where 20 children and six staff members were killed in their own school.

“They've been 100 percent supportive,” Kozarian said.

In February 2011, Kozarian had visited the federal law enforcement training facility in Georgia for two weeks and received a physical security specialist certification from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The certification allows Kozarian to conduct physical security and risk assessments on schools, hospitals and public buildings, he said.

Risk assessments, which review potential man-made and natural disasters such as intruders, fires and hurricanes that could occur at a facility, are not required on school facilities, Kozarian said.

“It taught you how to think like a criminal, as far as breaking into buildings,” he said. “From there, it taught us how to prevent those people from getting into buildings.”

In January, Kozarian said, he met with the Brentwood Borough School Board which gave him the go ahead for the project.

About six months ago, Kozarian said he conducted an assessment of all three Brentwood school buildings and determined what improvements could be made.

He also reviewed the history of workplace violence nationwide and used those trends to implement changes into Brentwood schools, said Kozarian, who founded his own building assessment company Security Assessment & Facilities Evaluation LLC in recent months.

The focus was creating barriers, Kozarian said, “to prevent and also slow them up as far as gaining access to the school.”

Watching Kozarian create these plans has been impressive for his Brentwood colleagues, they said.

“Joe Kozarian is beyond question one of the foremost experts on safety in our area,” Brentwood High School Principal Jason Olexa said. “We're extremely fortunate that he works for us.”

The changes will affect all visitors, including parents, in the Brentwood Borough School District.

“They're going to need a valid state ID to visit a school,” Kozarian said.

Visitors must remove all head gear and show identification to the school secretary through a camera before being granted access to the building. After entering the first door, a secretary will sit behind a secure window where she or he will scan the person's ID for further entry.

“Most of the transactions can be handled right there, whether it's dropping off a lunch or a backpack their child forgot,” Kozarian said.

The person's identification, using the Raptor Visitor Management System, will be run through a national sex offender database and a sticker printed with the intended location the person is headed.

“We also have an electronic log of who has been in the school,” said Elroy Elementary Principal Amy Burch.

All other doors except the front door will remain locked throughout the day.

Principals are sending letters to parents alerting them of the changes, which also will be discussed at parent orientations, Kozarian said.

The security changes also allowed for other improvements to district buildings.

While reworking the office area at Elroy, a much-needed conference room was added, Burch said.

“It was a complete renovation,” Burch said. “We needed to capitalize on this opportunity.”

But the security upgrades, truly, were most important, she stressed.

“The safety of our children always is a top priority,” Burch said. “I can't wait to see (this) in action.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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