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Superintendent Robert Belluzzo requested between $30,000 and $40,000 to begin the process of installing security cameras in designated locations around the district as soon as possible. Board members gave a unanimous nod during the special meeting preceded by a working session Wednesday.
“We’ve checked into a few different kinds of security systems, and it appears that cameras are the way to go,” said Belluzzo. “We know it won’t disallow vandalism or break-ins from occurring, but they will assist us in finding the culprits.”
The measure comes a few weeks following a major break-in and vandalism incident at the High School, which resulted in more than $5,000 of damage was done.
Vandals gained unauthorized, non-forced access to the High School during early morning hours of Saturday, March 4. District officials found the damage, which included a substantial amount of broken glass beside the doors to several classrooms.
It was also determined that access had been gained to the Community Education office, the kitchen and nurse’s office, where student medications were discovered missing. Several other items were also reportedly stolen.
Only days after the incident, the school board approved offering a $250 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the damage.
Belluzzo said Wednesday the monetary reward did spur leads but has yet to come to any conclusion. The incident remains under investigation.
A few of the Hibbing schools have been broken into, vandalized and robbed over the school year.
Director Tony Kuznik motioned for approval, and was seconded by Director Dave Cicmil.
“One reason I’m voting for this is because just the sight of a camera can also help deter behavior problems and aid in the case of vandalism,” said Kuznik.
Belluzzo concurred, adding that such was noticed by administrators of other schools in which cameras are already in use. He said their presence also curbs daily acts of vandalism.
“It’s costly, but I think it’s necessary,” he added.
Belluzzo also spoke about having visited Nashwauk-Keewatin High School, where about 35 continually-scanning cameras are placed both inside and outside of the building.
The initial funding would allow for roughly 16 cameras to be installed in the lower level of the High School. More would be added to the school in the future as well as other district buildings would be considered for such a system.
“With the money we have now, we’ll want to get the most bang for our buck,” said Belluzzo, while noting $6,000 from a Safe and Drug-Free Schools grant can be put toward the purchase.
Joe Arthurs, district supervisor of buildings and grounds, said school officials have performed a walk-through of the High School with a local designer and installer of security systems to gather input.
Arthurs said he felt that covering the first floor of the High School would be adequate as they work toward building the system. He was directed by Kuznik to consult with all local security system providers.
Director Ed LaTendresse also suggested seeking funds from the district’s insurance provider.
“Weighing the costs and payback on this — it’s hard,” he said. “If you look at it from the potential of what could have been hundreds or thousands of dollars in damage out there, I’d think the insurance company would want to do something to assist us.”
Business Manager Scott Wirtanen said that was unlikely. Cicmil said it’s at least worth making a phone call.
In other business, school board members:
• Accepted the American Indian Education Transmittal of Resolution and Parent Committee Roster and directed to the superintendent to submit the required documentation to the Minnesota Department of Education.
• Reviewed the proposed 2006-07 school calendar. Belluzzo is expected to bring it back for action at the next school board meeting on April 5. Those involved in devising the calendar include representatives of the bargaining unit, the district staff development council and administrators.
• Entertained a presentation on the focus and offerings of Community Education by director Linda Arnebeck and Citizen Advisory Council members Dan Marich and Roy Smith.
• Went into closed session to discuss contract negotiations
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