Video surveillance: Coming soon to Onteora School

The Woodstock Times reports today that the Onteora middle and high schools will soon be installing 50 video surveillance cameras around campus.

That in itself isn't too surprising -- more and more schools have begun using video cameras to beef up security on campus. What's really odd about Onteora's recent move is that the decision caught the school board -- and even the district's new superintendent -- by surprise. Apparently the former interim superintendent, Charlotte Gregory, ordered the cameras without saying a word about it to the school board.

The discovery of the purchased cameras came during a Power Point presentation given by [High School principal Lance] Edelman on security and prevention measures administrators are taking to combat bullying and illegal activities. Edelman said he believes Onteora is the only school in Ulster County without surveillance cameras and said it poses a security concern. Trustee Laurie Osmond pointed out the surveillance cameras during the presentation, making it clear that she had no part on their purchase and that now, “the damage is done.”

Recently hired Superintendent, Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill, was also unaware the purchase was made behind closed doors, but informed the board once she discovered the equipment’s imminent arrival. “I’ve been trying to come up to speed really quickly on this,” said McGill, “to find out why weren’t the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed.” McGill apparently was not happy about the procedure. “Initially if you read my Friday notes, I was pretty upset about it and I’m still upset about it.”

The board is now scrambling to come up with a policy on the use of the cameras before they go live.

The district is seeking input from the community on the cameras. Here's a statement on their website:

In an effort to enhance the climate and culture and improve our safety and security measures at the middle and high school building, video surveillance equipment is in the process of being installed. A policy is also being developed to ensure that the concerns of the Onteora Community are addressed. If you are interested in providing feedback about our intended use of this system or would like to provide input for our policy development, please email High School Principal Lance Edelman at [email protected].