In the wake of one of the most heartrendingly devastating mass shootings in the history of this country, there isn't much left to be said that hasn't been said already. The heart of a once quiet and idyllic small town lays in pieces, its community weeps, and with them, the nation weeps also.
Stamford is about an hour away from Newtown. And while the nation mourns the loss of 20 tiny, little souls, it will also move forward steadfast that everything will be done to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
"There has not been a conversation here in the Government Center since Friday that has not, in some part, been about that horrible situation," Mayor Michael Pavia said Monday. "We all intend, here, to find the ways, if they are at all possible, to diminish, reduce, eliminate or prevent that kind of violence. we must be secure in our knowledge of reasonable levels of safety in our schools. Our response was immediate, but our collaboration has been going on for several years."
All branches of government in Stamford immediately began collaborating, according to Stamford Police Chief Jon Fontneau. From the Mayor's Office to the Superintendent's Office, every plan in place was laid out on the table for immediate review.
"We've taken an offensive approach, as opposed to a reactive one," Fontneau said. "We have School Resource Officers in our high schools, we have high visibility patrols on the school grounds, we met with Dr. [Winnie] Hamilton constantly over the weekend and we are in the process of meeting with each principal individually."
A large part of the review process was looking over procedural plans in place and structural reviews of the buildings, including technology. Pavia said, in light of an incident that has changed everything, the security of Stamford schools is the focus of everyone right now.
"On our list of action items moving forward, we will be researching the latest technology," Pavia said. "We would like to have the ability to determine what a person is carrying into school. We're trying to standardize our response to hypothetical situations, and trying to get our private and parochial schools involved as well, so we can standardize everything across the board."
Pavia said the concern right now would not be how to accomplish these upgrades but simply to find the best systems to implement and make them happen.
"We'd like to know a person's intentions before they reach the doors of the school," Pavia said. "We'll find money in budget. We'll make upgrades as part of capital improvements. We'll make physical improvements and have practical, real discussions on our security measures.
Public Safety Director Ted Jankowski said those standardizations don't just include the government employees or emergency responders, but the teachers and workers who fill the schools as well. It is not enough to have daily patrols in place during certain hours and school resource officers, he said, but to have everyone aware of how to handle the situation should the need ever arise.
"We will be working to enhance the school lockdown procedure in the event of an active shooter," Jankowski said. "The means personnel in our high schools and middle schools will be trained in active shooter drills on a routine basis. We will further develop and refine our school safety strategies as we take steps to remain as secure as possible."
Sharon Beadle, Public Affairs Officer for Stamford Public Schools, said in addition to a review of the physical hardware on school grounds—systems in place like buzzer checks and camera systems—and the added patrols from the police department, the school system is aware the students have other needs as well to feel safe.
"In addition to physical safety, we also support the emotional safety of our children and staff," Beadle said. "Trained social workers, counselors and psychologists are available to support our staff, students and families, as needed."
Above all else, the one thing that can make the biggest difference is planning stages before an incident ever takes place, Jankoski said:
"Preparedness is key."