LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – The security of school buildings and their occupants may be a predominant theme in tonight’s (Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018) meeting of the Pottsgrove School District Board of School Directors. Its agenda indicates the board will meet privately about a security issue before the public meeting opens, and when it does two other safety-related matters are part of its business actions.
The meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the large group instruction room of Pottsgrove High School, 1345 Kauffman Rd., near its cafeteria entrance. It is free to attend and open to the public, with parking nearby. A copy of the agenda is available for download from the district website, here. A meeting of the board’s Operations and Facilities Committee will be held an hour earlier, at 6:30 p.m.
A decision on Social Sentinel?
As promised during its last meeting on Aug. 28, district Superintendent Dr. William Shirk is scheduled to ask for directors’ approval to authorize a three-year contract for the use of a digital media monitoring service called “Social Sentinel.” The program, provided through the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, would cost $2,000 annually.
It relies on computer programming and other resources to detect what it calls “language of harm” across publicly accessed social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. The service uses a database filled with keywords suggested by experts to identify comments that might be interpreted as dangerous or intending harm and then alerts its clients in near-real time, potentially allowing them to avoid or thwart threatening incidents.
Social Sentinel and its competitors have substantially grown their businesses among school districts following publicized shootings earlier this year. It also has raised concerns that minority students populations could be inadvertent targets of monitoring due to their use of language.
Renewing school police contracts
School resource officer contract renewals with police departments in Lower and Upper Pottsgrove townships, across which four of five Pottsgrove school buildings are located, are scheduled to be offered to directors for their approval. They would cover the period between 2018 and 2021.
Known by their acronym, the SROs provide in-building security and related services that include some educational and mediation duties.
In executive session
The agenda reports directors will hold an executive session at 7 p.m., a half-hour before the start of its regular meeting, “to discuss personnel and a security issue.”
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