School safety ‘number one priority’

WPD Captain Lawrence Valliere, WPS Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski and Administrator of Interventions and Safety Chris Rogers spoke about school safety on Monday.

WESTFIELD – On Monday, the first day back from February vacation, Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski sent a letter to parents, colleagues and the community at large to reassure them that the district is taking a proactive approach to school safety.
“Please know that the safety of our students, staff and faculty is our number one priority in the Westfield Public Schools. Our schools continue to work hard at developing and refining our building emergency preparedness plans. These plans have been developed in coordination with Westfield Police Fire and Emergency Management Departments and their extensive training and guidance has been at the forefront of our planning. We have in turn trained our school employees and regularly practice these skills in preparation for scenario-based events at every school,” wrote Czaporowski in the letter.
According to Westfield Police Department Captain Lawrence Valliere, Westfield schools started preparing themselves by doing lockdown drills 18 years ago after the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. “We were ahead of the curve,” Valliere said. He said the WPD has a special response team with 18 years of practice. They also have school resource officers and police representation at every school.
Czaporowski said the work is ongoing and always being reviewed and updated. Currently, all the schools practice lockdown drills twice a year. The most recent drill was held in November. He said they are “woven into the fabric” of the schools.
“The way that we prepare students is grade level specific. For K-5, it’s different than for high school students,” said Chris Rogers, Administrator of Interventions and Safety for the district, adding, “Our goal is not to scare anyone, but to prepare them.”
Czaporowski said two summers ago, all of the teachers participated in a day-long training with the Westfield Police Department. Thirty officers demonstrated the difference between lockdown and sheltering in place; each in their own classroom. They’ve also starting using a training called ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate, and which offers options and includes an evacuation piece.
“We’ve evolved our training with best practices,” Valliere said.
“Our staff has a really good relationship with our students,” Czaporowski said. “When they see something, they do say something,” he added, saying people also use the anonymous alert which is always posted on the district’s webpage at He said every piece of information they get is investigated.
Czaporowski said he and Rogers plan to meet with the principals on Tuesday, to learn what they’re hearing from students, and to remind them “to keep doing what they’re doing.”
“Our schools are ready with counseling support on hand for those who need additional reassurance. Please let your school principal or counselor know if you have specific concerns about your child,” Czaporowski’s letter continued, ending with:
“As in the past, we will continue communicating with our families and school communities to build greater awareness regarding school safety. In a world of uncertainty, we will continue our work together to ensure the security and well-being of all students and staff in our schools.”

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