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Superintendent: Our school is a safe place

| February 16, 2018

The following is a letter from the Superintendent of Schools to parents/guardians in the district.

Dear Parents/Guardians,

Early in my administrative career, when I became elementary Principal of my first school, I realized “School” must, first and foremost, encourage natural confidence for parents and caregivers, students and staff, that it is truly a safe place for learning.

My first thought and task as Principal was to walk around the perimeter of the building, making sure all doors and windows were secured.  My next action, literally, was to research what my response would be for an array of emergency situations.  Third was my commitment to know each student in my building, the staff who worked with them, and every parent and caregiver.

Leading in a school is a lot like parenting, in terms of one’s wishes for the health and safety of the children in one’s charge.  Schools naturally place a premium on safety, security, and welfare of each student above all else.  CCS is no different.  Our school is a safe place, and is becoming safer every day.

The recent horrible violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. has reminded us, yet again, that a problem exists.  There are people who value life so little that they would cause terror and deep sadness in a school community and nation.  As a school, we are diligent in our review of ways to keep our students, staff and visitors safe.

Physical security has been improved with regard to entrance and exit during school hours, ongoing safety protocols and drills have provided excellent training for staff and students, and our building plans are firmly in place.  We have excellent communication with local law enforcement, and our crisis teams are carefully selected to include those who are ready to respond in emergencies.

All staff at CCS go well beyond the role of “educator” each day in their commitment to keep students safe.  They are smart and selfless in their concern for student welfare both during and well beyond the instructional day.  There is a special District-wide commitment to students’ social and emotional learning through instruction in our character education curricula. We monitor their wellness within dynamic social and academic structures and periods of developmental growth.

Our staff, including bus drivers, custodians, teachers, support staff and administrators, are prepared to lead in the case of any emergency.  You should have great confidence in their desire and capability to do so.  At CCS, we really do know students by name.  We will continue to strive to recognize and identify social and emotional issues, and strive to teach and practice kindness, empathy and respect for others.

While school is predicated on being an enjoyable, happy learning environment in our community, we must validate rational concerns for safety and security.  To that end, we will continue to build instructional and physical systems to further help families, students and staff to feel prepared as possible to respond in emergency situations.

I would like to offer a few suggestions to consider how we might begin conversations with children in an age-appropriate way so they can feel more prepared to interpret the information or images they may be exposed to.

Limit the exposure.

The news is a 24-hour business, and major events are shown repeatedly.  Seeing the scenes repeatedly might lead children to believe that traumatic events are an everyday occurrence.  All of us, but particularly children, have a limit to the graphic images we can tolerate.  Turn off the TV and limit exposure to images and sounds that may upset children.

Explain what happened.

If your child asks for an explanation to something they see, use language and words he or she can easily understand.  Explain the basics – just what is appropriate for their age level.  For young children, what they see on TV they understand to be happening nearby.  Help them understand that the news they see is not happening at their own school.

Keep calm.

Your children will look to you for guidance in the event of upsetting news. If they are upset, acknowledge their fears and reassure them that you will do everything you can to keep them safe.

Take their fears seriously.

If their behavior changes after seeing or hearing about a major news event, they may be trying to process the information. Encourage your children to talk about what they are thinking. Hearing their perspective will help you decide how much information you want to share. Then help them understand that their fears and concerns are normal by sharing how you felt when you heard about the event.

Learn together.

Some older children may want to learn more about the event. It may help relieve their fears to talk about it with you.

Keep your regular schedule.

If your child is upset by an event they saw in the news, keep your day-to-day schedule as normal and routine as possible. If bedtime or leaving for school becomes difficult transitions for your child, spend some extra time helping him or her for a few days.

Look for the positive.

Talk with your children about the people who come to help those in trouble instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the event.

I am confident I represent the Board of Education and all of my colleagues at CCS when I say that events like school violence tragedies hit us hard.  Our hearts ache for everyone affected by such tragedies.  Please be assured that the safety of our students is my first priority as Superintendent of Cooperstown Central School District.  I encourage you to reach out to me or your building Principal if you have questions about safety practices in our schools.

Take good care,

Dr. Crankshaw

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Category: District Announcements