|By G. Michael Dobbs
The members of the Special Committee on School Safety include, left to right: Dr. Bobbie Rennix, City Councilor Zaida Luna, City Councilor Kateri Walsh, City Council President James Ferrera III, Sonia Rodriguez, City Council Vice President Bud Williams and Melanie Joyner.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD On Feb. 25, at almost the same time, City Council President James Ferrera III was introducing his new special committee on school safety, School Superintendent Daniel Warwick was announcing that Judge William Abrashkin, executive director of the Springfield Housing Authority, was been asked to conduct an independent investigation into the Feb. 15 death of a 12-year-old student at Kiley Middle School.
Ferrera said that his new committee "is going to be looking at all aspects of school safety." He cited the use of police in schools, the door buzzer systems, bulletproof glasses windows and security cameras as subject that will be discussed.
"Everything will be on the table," Ferrera said.
Besides Ferrera, the committee includes former school principal Dr. Bobbie Rennix, Springfield residents Melanie Joyner and Sonia Rodriguez, Hampden County Sheriff's Department Lt. John Nettis, School Committee Vice Chair Peter Murphy, School Committee member Barbara Gresham, and City Council Vice President Bud Williams and City Councilors Kateri Walsh and Zaida Luna.
Rennix said, "There is never too much we can do when it comes to the safety of our children."
Walsh said that she believes the committee will be conducting a series of hearings to listen to the concerns of administrators, teaches, parents and students.
Although Ferrera did not cite specific local events that spurred the creation of the special committee, he did note the shooting in Newtown Conn. took place "less that 90 miles away."
He added, "We have to be proactive, have to have best practices in place."
Ferrera said he would be working with Mayor Domenic Sarno to make sure the findings and conclusions of the special committee are implemented.
Speaking of the choice of Abrashkin as a special investigator, Warwick said, "Inviting an independent and impartial third party to conduct an internal review is a break from tradition for us but it is my opinion that an incident as grave as this one requires an unusual measure such as this. I believe that having a neutral, third-party lead the review process is best for all involved and I couldn't be more pleased than to have a man whose impeccable career has distinguished him as a well-respected professional who takes ,a comprehensive approach to every assignment set before him."
School Department Chief of Human Resources Melissa Shea and Safety and Security Director Peter Hogan will work closely alongside Abrashkin in his efforts.
This investigation will be undertaken concurrently with the one that is being conducted by the Hampden County District Attorney's Office and the Springfield Police, Warwick said.
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