The recent tragic events that occurred in Newtown, Conn., have left an undeniable impact on everyone in our community and region. All of us at the Marshall Public Schools are deeply saddened by the events of incomprehensible evil. These events have caused all district employees and personnel in Marshall Public Schools to revisit and reevaluate our own practices, procedures and policies related to situations such as these.
A key strategic initiative set in motion six years ago was to ensure that each building has well defined processes and procedures to address crisis events. As a result, the district has created a district-wide crisis planning team that meets regularly to review and refine district action plans related to crisis events in the district. The team, comprised of district administrators, teachers, and support staff work diligently to ensure that our district is as safe as we can possibly be. Steps that our crisis team have taken to ensure a safe environment include ensuring that each school building has a Crisis Response Plan and related safety procedures in place.
Key elements of these plans include a variety of drills ranging from fire drills to lock-down drills at each school site as well as specific protocol for staff in various scenarios that may compromise the safety of our facilities. Further, working with various community and regional agencies, the District crisis team has conducted crisis scenarios, such as table top exercises, to ensure these crisis plans are effective. Along with school employees and leadership, the table top exercises have included emergency response personnel, city and county law enforcement, media and medical personnel. These are a few examples of how Marshall Public Schools ensures the safety of the students placed in our care each day. In light of the events in Newtown, I have asked our district crisis team as well as each district building to meet and discuss the crisis plans to ensure diligence in our implementation of our crisis response plans throughout the district. It is through focused conversations we can remain intent on continuous improvement for our efforts to provide a safe learning environment for our students.
I know, too, that these types of events do not occur in a vacuum. I have been asked what parents and community members can do to help. First, I would suggest that we take time this Holiday Season to spend time with family, appreciating the value of each individual. Remember that the real gift is their presence. Also, I would encourage you to share an extra warm handshake or an extra hug, regardless of age, with your friends and family. I am sure that this would be a welcome gift for the holidays. Another suggestion is to access recognized resources that can provide insights on how to discuss these events with children. The National Association of School Psychologists have a great resource titled Talking to Children About Violence that provide sound examples and suggestions for parents, community members and caregivers. You can access this resource online at: nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/talkingviolence.pdf
Additionally, in the wake of the events, it is acceptable to send cards and letters to the community of Newtown and to the Newtown schools. The weeks ahead will be difficult for the community of Newtown and even a small gesture sharing our concern can provide hope and support beyond measure. These are a few simple, yet powerful actions that can make a difference.
Overall, schools, by design, are meant to be safe places for children and for community. Marshall Public Schools hosts numerous events ranging from community functions to ball games and speech tournaments to higher education classes. Our schools will remain essential community centers. Through ongoing support and collaboration, together our staff and our community can ensure that the buildings in our school district continue to be safe places to learn and to work. If you have questions or concerns about the safety or security measures in the district, please feel free to contact your school building administrator or the District Office.
In closing, as we wind down the 2012 calendar year and look toward 2013, I want to thank everyone for the ongoing support of the Marshall Public Schools. It is a GREAT day to be a Tiger!