In his time with the New Jersey State Police Neal Brosnan did everything from patrolling the streets in the northern part of the state to training new troopers to being in charge of the Office of State Governmental Security.
In May Brosnan stepped away from the state police to become Director of Security for the Howell Township Public Schools. The jobs are very different but he said he sees some similarities which helped him settle into the new role. “Although it’s different from what I was doing before the senior administration and every principal and every teacher that I’ve encountered has fully embraced this position,” he said. “They have given me whatever I’ve asked for, been extremely open to ideas and it’s a very pleasant environment to work in.”
During his time on the force Brosnan said he had some familiarity with the township and has gotten to know it much better since taking the job. “I know Howell Better than I ever thought I would,” he said with a laugh. Now he can get from Middle School North to Middle School South without a GPS system as he travels the extensive roads through Howell.
Now that he knows the township and the schools, Brosnan said he feels confident in the safety of the students, staff and administrators. “Before I got here the district was taking some very good steps to ensure the safety and security of the students,” he said. “I’m just trying to bring things together.”
Brosnan said the district is at the tail end of close to $300,000 in security upgrades which he said will help keep everyone in the buildings safe and ensure that only the right people get into the buildings as guests.
The position was created last year following the school shooting in Connecticut and a scare at Griebling School involving local hunters. Even with those two incidents Brosnan said he still believes schools are among the safest places to be in the country. “If you look at incidents over the past several years there has always been a way to circumvent the security,” he said. “We’ve taken steps to not ensure that that doesn’t happen but limit the possibility that things like that will happen.”
Some of those steps are not being made public but Brosnan said the administration now has a better ability to see what is happening in buildings across the district. “We’re able to see things before they happen. You want time because time allows the Howell PD to get there and the more time we buy for them to get here the better off we are.”
Brosnan said he has been pleased to see what a willing partner the Howell department has been over the past few months. “They are very good people who are very open to the wonderful relationship that they have with all the schools in the district,” he said. “Chief (Ronald) Carter has said he will do whatever he can to help us in our endeavour.”
One option that had been discussed last year to increase security in the district schools was to either add more School Resource Officers from the local department or possibly find an outside firm to provide guards. Brosnan said of the private firm currently “All options are open but that’s not being actively pursued.”
There are still three resource officers serving the district. “They do a wonderful job and they spread themselves very very thin,” he said. “It’s up to Chief Carter how much resources they can spend.”
Even with the changes Brosnan acknowledged that schools can never be “100 percent secure,” but said the residents of Howell should feel confident in knowing that the buildings will be as safe as possible. “We’ve got policies and procedures and physical mechanisms in place that people don’t see, that they probably never will see and that’s the way we want it,” he said. “We want our schools to feel welcome and we want them to feel that this is a place that they can come and it is. We want to see who’s coming into these buildings and what business they have here.”
During the course of the year Brosnan said he will be busy driving between the buildings and ensuring safety procedures are being followed while working on implementing new ones. That will also include working with the administration on their safety drills and “giving them feedback.” In his meetings so far he said the support has been good for making positive changes. “The principals are overwhelmingly in support of that,” he said. “They want guidance on am I doing this right or doing this wrong.”
In the event of an emergency Brosnan said it will be a priority to keep the public aware of what is happening in the buildings. “Howell Township Schools will use all of our communication needs to notify parents of any ongoing incidents and relay any information that they may need in an emergency situation. That will include the phone system, district and school websites and the district’s new mobile app.