Before the tragic December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Greenport School did not have a person sit and monitor the front entrance of the school.
But in the weeks following the shooting, as Greenport School officials revisited their security procedures, a kind-hearted substitute special education teacher stepped up and volunteered to guard the front entrance every day — and to greet students with a sincere smile.
“I love children and want to make them feel more secure so they’ll learn more,” said Frank Musto, a 71-year-old retired New York City police officer. “A school is supposed to be a save haven for children and I don’t want them to lose that feeling.”
For years now, Greenport School has had security cameras, locked doors and emergency evacuation and lockdown plans, but after Sandy Hook, the administration felt it was time to designate someone to watch the front door during the school day.
“This tragedy opened our eyes again, to look at everything a second time,” said Greenport School Principal Len Skuggevik, who added that arming the front door guard was not considered.
“I don’t like guns, I never have,” said Musto, who spend years patrolling the streets of Brooklyn and Queens before becoming a special education teacher after his career in law enforcement.
Musto has had a house in Greenport since 1964. He has worked as a teacher at various New York City schools and worked for a time at the jail on Rikers Island before retiring full-time to Greenport in 2006.
“There were a lot of kids there who were at the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in special education, because I want these kids to be better kids.”
As a substitute teacher, Musto volunteered to guard the door right away after Sandy Hook.
“I was so distraught after the incident — I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “I figured that I would fit in well at the door.”
Musto does not get paid to sign people in at the main hall before they venture elsewhere in the school. He is also a volunteer with the Greenport Fire Department and at St. Agnes Church in Greenport.
And this father of two sons and three grandchildren says he loves just greeting and talking to kids in the morning and as they leave in the afternoon. One student made Musto a sign for his new desk in the main hall — it simply says “Our Hero.”
“That was very touching to me,” he said. “The kids know I love them, and I hope if anything my presence here helps to make their days more pleasant.”
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