Wednesday April 3, 2013

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. -- Local schools recently received recognition as safe places to be by an authoritative figure: their insurance company.

Utica National Insurance Group, the property and liability insurer for more than 300 school districts in upstate New York, acknowledged Hoosick Falls Central School and Cambridge Central School with its "2013 School Safety Excellence Award." The annual awards were presented at Utica’s school safety seminars last month.

At their March board meeting, HFCS Superintendent Kenneth Facin said the acknowledgement was especially significant for a unified kindergarten through 12th grade building.

"This means the insurance company has looked at everything we do," said HFCS board President Greg Laurin. It’s "not just because we have a pretty campus -- it’s because we know how to run the school and keep the campus safe."

According to Utica, the company’s Safety Excellence Award Program helps participating schools enhance overall campus safety through measurable assessment. The program evaluates schools with their own transportation -- such as CCS and HFCS -- on 19 separate categories from bullying prevention programs to playground safety, with specific data-gathering surveys.

"Safety and health concerns are a priority in our school districts," said Mark Aquino, regional manager in Utica’s risk management department. In a written release, Aquino said the award recognizes schools that "go above and beyond to provide a safe, healthy, and focused culture for learning."

But, he continued, "the payoff goes beyond recognition -- if our program is followed properly, it should enable schools to pinpoint specific threats to safety."

Some 121 school districts and Board of Cooperative Educational Services in New York received Utica’s recognition this year.

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