Upper Darby School District Addresses Safety Concerns and PA System Failures

On Friday, Nov. 1, the Raging Chicken Press published an article written by Colleen Kennedy, founder of Save the Upper Darby Arts.  The article “Exposing Upper Darby School District Corruption & Neglect – ‘The Safety of Teachers and Children Depend on It”’ brought up many concerns; one of which was the failing public announcement and fire alarm systems.  Colleen published an anonymous letter that was from September 2012.  The letter stated:

Thought you might be interested in where else money is NOT being spent at your old school:

Some things the public needs to know about the area’s largest (almost 4,000 students) high school (from an anonymous source inside the school):

  1. the school’s pa system is not working over large parts of the building
  2. the school’s bells aren’t working over large parts of the building
  3. the school’s security phones aren’t working over large parts of the building
  4. unknown if the school’s alarm systems (fire, etc.) are working or not

As you know, this means:

  1. no public announcements
  2. no bells between classes over large parts of the building
  3. in a lockdown situation, no announcement, no help
  4. in a classroom emergency, no classroom phone = no help
  5. no alarm systems, no fire/emergency warnings (unknown status)”

After the letter, Colleen Kennedy highlighted safety issues that have happened at the Upper Darby High School:

One week to the day after the Newtown Shootings, there was an attempted shooting at my high school. Had the shooter gotten into the building without police intervention, there likely would not have been any communication from classroom to classroom, something completely vital to saving lives. There would be no announcements to lock the doors and stay down, and the shooter potentially would have been able to kill dozens of students and teachers before the alarm could be pulled so that police were notified. A few months later, a man entered my high school with a hammer, attacked a teacher, and stole numerous computers. He did this by entering a door that was supposed to be locked but wasn’t. Thankfully, it was after school hours, so very few students were at risk. About a month ago, a student was found in possession of 81 bags of heroin, which means he probably had the resources and contacts to be selling to many students within my alma mater for months before he was caught. Two weeks ago, six students were assaulting each other, and when no security guards intervened in time, a male teacher decided to step into the brawl to break up the fight. Their blows all over his body caused a leg injury and mild traumatic brain injury.

Yesterday, Rick Dunlap – superintendent of the Upper Darby School District – released an automated robocall to residents regarding the issues regarding the PA and fire alarm systems.  Mr. Dunlap explained that there have been recurring failures with Upper Darby High School’s PA system.  Mr. Dunlap also addressed that there were procedures in place for non-fire related emergencies.  

The voice recorded stated:


Good Evening,

This is Rick Dunlap, superintendent of the Upper Darby School District.  I am calling with information regarding the PA system at the high school.  A few years ago, a new PA system and clock-bell system at the high school were installed.  Over the past two years problems have ranged from a few classrooms being out to widespread building outages.  Repairs were made, and the system would become operational.  Unfortunately, fixes have been short lived.  The situation has been complicated by the fact the manufacturer that have decertified the original installation contractor, and a new contractor was recommended.  We have been working with the manufacturer and three recommended, certified contractors to identify and confirm the root problems of the system.  It was decided that the high school should be re-cabled to rectify the current situation.  About 3 weeks ago, a bid to re-cable the PA system at the high school as advertised, and the bids will be open Wednesday November 6, 2013.  

At this time, a recommendation will be made to the board, and the school board will vote at the November 12, 2013 meeting to accept a bid recabling the PA system at the high school.  This work will be done off hours, when students are not in session.  We anticipate that the work will be completed by the change of semester, by the end of January or the beginning of February.  Upon completion of this work, the PA system will work properly throughout the entire high school, and the bells for the change of classes will also work properly.  

We successfully ran drills with the Upper Darby Fire Dept at al of our schools last month.  However, I will be having the director of facilities and the local fire marshal to complete an inspection of our fire alarm system.  The high school has put into place a system of contacting teachers and students in the event of an emergence not related to fire safety.  We are using a global connect with staff on their cell phones and through radio transmissions with our security staff to communicate with students and staff as we execute immediate action drills.  

I want to assure you that we take the safety of all students and staff very seriously.  Until our PA system is repaired, we will continue to operate in a safe manner using the methods we have created for the safety of our students and staff.  We will continue to hold unannounced drills to practice the immediate action steps we have put into place.  

Thank you for your understanding and patience as we continue to keep our schools safe  for our students.


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About Sean Kitchen 681 Articles
Contributor and Assistant Editor for the Raging Chicken Press. Stationed in Harrisburg covering politics in the capitol. You can send tips to sean@rcpress.org or reach me on twitter at @RCPress_Sean!
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