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UFT.org Home > What I do: Peter Smaltz, school safety supervisor
Based at PS 140 in the Lower East Side and in charge of 14 downtown schools, Smaltz has been keeping children and adults safe for 26 years.
What do you do when you get to work in the morning?
I report to Norman Thomas HS, one of the city’s IMPACT schools, to check the metal detector and make sure I have enough agents to run the scanning process properly. I call the patrol borough office, that’s the Manhattan South School Safety Division, to check attendance. Then I go from school to school to make sure everything is OK with my staff and to see if there’s anything I need to know about in the building.
Are all the schools you supervise IMPACT schools, with their relatively high rate of safety incidents and disorder?
No, they’re the elementary, middle and high schools that are within the 9th Precinct of the NYPD.
You mentioned seeing on your rounds if anything is going on in the building that you need to know about. Such as?
It could be a protest; it could be for any event where we anticipate the media. We want to make sure that reporters don’t get into the building illegally, that the outer doors and perimeter are covered. People have a right to protest; it’s my job to make sure it’s done in an orderly and safe fashion. Part of dealing with any event is making sure I have enough staff, putting a plan together and touching base with principals to see if they have any concerns.
What if you don’t have enough security?
I call the platoon commander, the same rank as I am but in a different capacity, who is responsible for the School Safety Division’s task force. The office will deploy whatever agents I need.
What if an incident is violent?
I have to assess the situation and get the police involved if necessary.
Do you ever carry a gun?
No. We are civilians working under the Police Department. We have peace-officer status and are allowed to restrain.
What was your biggest nightmare?
When I worked in the Bronx during the crack epidemic in the ’80s, a student at a high school had his back slit open with some type of razor and his kidney was sticking out. Two of my colleagues and I pushed the kidney back inside him and got him into the EMS van. It was amazing that he survived. I got an award from School Safety for that.
What do you do to take the pressure off?
My passion is song writing and music production; my goal is to make that my life when I retire.
Does it ever feel strange having to worry about weapons even on the elementary school level?
Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s necessary, partly because we’ve gotten away from basic parenting due to the socioeconomic situation. Parents are working all hours.
What do you think is needed to turn kids away from acting out violently?
Instead of cutting afterschool programs, the city needs to increase them! When I was growing up in the Wagner projects in East Harlem, we had wood shop, basketball and many other activities. We need funding so kids will have someplace to go and be around something that’s positive. When the cat’s away — you know what happens.
What is your favorite movie about a teacher?
Dead Poets Society
Stand and Deliver
Mr. Holland's Opus
Total votes: 647