The tragedy in Newtown, CT has deeply affected teachers, principals, and families across the nation. Members of our team assembled this afternoon to discuss our response, communication, and network of support. We will take the following steps:
1. School’s Crisis Teams will convene Monday morning to process their response.
2. JFK and NHS will use advisory and forum for discussion on Monday and Tuesday.
3. All schools will review crisis response plans, evacuation and reunification procedures, but will not run these drills now. Practice will be held during the regularly scheduled time this spring.
4. Principals will be visible and visit classrooms.
5. Adult staff members will avoid processing the events where children can over hear and should avoid over-processing among themselves.
6. I will check with the Northampton Police Dept. about a review of our school safety assessment.
Our goal is to reduce the anxiety children and parents naturally feel following a tragedy of this magnitude. We have school safety plans; we practice all of our safety drills regularly. In addition, we have always had wonderful support from Northampton Public Safety officers and emergency personnel who have good relationships with our principals and teachers. Though we cannot guarantee safety in schools or in any public places in society, we work hard to build relationships, invite communication, practice vigilance, and prepare responses. I encourage anyone to call the police, a principal, or me if ever you have information, no matter how minor it may seem at the time, about a risk to the safety of our schools.
Due to scheduling school visits as a priority this week, I was able to have very special experiences talking with principals, teachers, and observing students learning. I attended the Ryan Road faculty meeting on Monday and was able to observe three PLC’s in action and then I was able to attend the Bridge 5th grade teacher meeting with the principal to discuss the concept of perseverance in learning and problem-solving. After the meeting, I was able to catch NHS Choir performance that captivated the Bridget St. students and teachers. I followed that visit with a trip to the high school to watch some of our passionate poets recite original poems to an appreciative audience in the auditorium.
Our School Committee meeting last evening offered the following highlights: (1) a report on our newly structured New Teacher/Mentor program, (2) an update on our special education population, programs, and staffing, (3) a report on the status of our Athletic programs and finances, (4) a report on the current status of our school lunch finances as well as the implementation of the new federal nutritional guidelines, (5) and a discussion regarding the charge and make-up for the ad hoc committee on the later start time for NHS. The charge and a call for committee members will be published soon on our website and in the local paper. The committee is expected to provide information back to the School Committee by April 1st.
Bridge Street School has a new “Before School Math Club.” The Math Club was offered to all students K-5. They meet Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8:00-8:30 a.m. Our original hope was to have 10-20 students participate in the program and we were elated when 60 children signed up. This was the first week of the program to enrich students’ math skills. Students will be assessed to determine their math skills, will be arranged in ability groups, and will be engaged in math challenges, games, and skill building. We also have six teachers supporting the program.
Brian L. Salzer, Ed.S.