The tragedy in Newton at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in December has been a wake-up call to all educators across the country. Clearly this incident has placed a renewed focus on our school security measures including the assessment of each school's physical plant. School safety and the physical and emotional well-being of all our children has always been a high priority in our schools. It is only when our students feel safe and secure that meaningful learning can occur.
The first course of action that we took as a school district was to meet with town leaders in both the Selectman's Office and the Police Department. Each of our four schools were assessed to determine their level of security by Police Chief Robin Montgomery, a former FBI agent and Richard Zucchi, a former secret service agent and Art Colley, Director of Finance, Technology, and Operations. With the input of these knowledgeable individuals and others in the community, we developed a School Safety Plan which Mr. Colley has detailed in a related article. Most recently, the Brookfield Board of Education requested that the town support the inclusion of a School Resource Officer (SRO) in each of the four buildings. Furthermore, a School Security Advisory Council has been formed to support the ongoing work of enhancing security measures in all of our schools. At this point I feel confident that we are taking a balanced and deliberate approach to secure the four physical environments.
TUESDAY: Director of Finance, Technology and Operations Art Colley on plans to upgrade school security.
Reflecting on the two months that have passed since Sandy Hook, I am convinced of our need for physical safety, but at the same time it is not just about locking up our schools. We do not want to create fortresses. Our schools must be open and welcoming environments to the community, to the parents/guardians and town's people who we serve. Additionally, I want to insure that the school climate in each building is one that fosters the well being of students, staff, parents and other community members. Each of our four buildings has a School Climate Team. Students, staff and parents/guardians have been and will continue to be surveyed to assess the myriad elements of school climate so that plans can be affected that insure that we continually improve the sense of security among all stakeholders. We want our students to see the schools as being supportive of their best interests. We want parents/guardians to feel that each of their children will not only be physically secure, but also valued and respected by school staff and their peers. We want community members to take pride in our school district and have confidence that it represents the best values of Brookfield and that they are welcome and appreciated.
WEDNESDAY: Brookfield Director of Special Services Charlie Manos, NCSP, LMFT, on the importance of a safe school climate in preventing violence.
We have requested the addition of another school social worker in our proposed 2013-2014 school budget. Our intention is to better meet the mental health needs of our students. A strong support staff including school social workers, guidance counselors and school psychologists provide our students with the programs and resources necessary for their emotional well being in school. They partner with parents/guardians to reduce the stress caused by unforeseen events, by transitions in their lives and by the myriad of other stressors that they confront in their normal activities.
In closing, Brookfield Public Schools continues to offer a highly safe and secure learning environment for both students and staff. We will continue to strive to improve our safety procedures and academic programs.
The preceding was first published in the March 2013 issue of Brookfield Conversations, the Brookfield Public Schools newsletter.