State Comptroller says 2 local districts need to improve safety plan documentation

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An audit out of Albany shows schools across our state aren’t doing enough to prepare for emergency situations.  New York State Comptroller Thomas Dinapoli found 19 schools fell short on their emergency planning, including two districts here in Western New York. 

Both Lancaster Central School District and Niagara Falls City School district were told to improve the documentation of their safety plans.  

District leaders say showing up on a list like this can be alarming for parents. But they insist this audit comes down to paperwork and is not a safety issue. 

Mark Laurrie has served as Niagara Falls City School District’s Superintendent over the past four years. 

“My kids went to our schools and I always felt safe as a parent,” he said. Although his district made a list of 19 across the state falling short on emergency planning, he still feels that way today. 

“Our procedures and processes and our actual ability to do those drills is in good shape. In three months the comptroller’s office found three paper work issues that we need to tighten up,” he said. 

In the audit, DiNapoli asked the district to improve their safety plan documentation process. The first citation, Niagara Falls was told to identify a chief emergency officer , a position Laurrie says he already holds — but hadn’t previously documented. 

“The second one was a plan for the unfortunate and terrible circumstance that a child committed suicide, we just didn’t have the word suicide in the plan,” said Laurrie.  The third citation had to do with keeping records of agendas and sign in sheets for events.

Laurrie says the issues have been corrected and the district has already sent out the revised plans. But he feels being on this list for those reasons is misleading to parents. “Agenda sign in sheets, my name and a word is not going to make any child any safer or better, he said.  “However I do own the fact that those three are in the law and that we didn’t have those ready as we should.” 

The Lancaster Central School District also made the list. Superintendent Michael Vallely shared a statement saying in part, “The audit was of documentation and not in anyway an indication of how safe or secure our district facilities are.”  

He went on to say Lancaster has spent millions on drills and extensive safety planning over the last several years and that the district is already implementing the document changes. 

All districts on the list are required to send the state their revised emergency plans by September 1st. 

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