Area school superintendents and leaders shared with education reporter Britney Tabor via email earlier this week their thoughts on the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and responded to questions on what they’re doing here at home to keep students safe.
Here’s some of what they had to say:
Aubrey ISD superintendent
Aubrey ISD joins the rest of the nation in mourning the terrible tragedy of December 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Our thoughts and prayers remain with those affected by this senseless act.
Our district took immediate steps to assure parents that we currently have trained all faculty, staff, and substitutes in effective emergency operations procedures. Principals and counselors met with staff members to discuss how to answer questions from children and parents, as well as to revisit current emergency procedures. A statement was posted on our district website to reassure parents and links were provided that gave advice to parents about how to talk to their children. Additionally, our local law enforcement agency agreed to patrol our schools frequently.
However, with all these measures, Aubrey ISD will not become complacent when it comes to school safety. Aubrey ISD takes our responsibility for students very seriously and their safety and security is our top priority. As parents, community leaders and taxpayers, we have a responsibility to ensure all that can be done to protect our prize possession – the children of this community.
We have already begun the process of evaluating our facilities and procedures including building access security, controlled visitor access and identification requirements, staff and student lock-down procedures, local law enforcement agency response plans and other efforts for security. Although many of our current systems are effective, we intend on maintaining the highest security possible, while still providing an inviting school atmosphere for our children and parents. However, we realize there is no easy fix, and there is not just one cause or solution. The Sandy Hook tragedy has reminded us that more can be done. We certainly invite parent and community input through school committees and organizations.
Krum ISD superintendent
We do have measures in place, we do have regular drills, we are in the process of working something out with our Krum Police Dept.
Lake Dallas ISD superintendent
Formal statement to the public on Connecticut tragedy
Lake Dallas ISD joins the nation in mourning the loss at Sandy Hook Elementary. We are deeply saddened by the tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the school’s children, families and community. The incident in Connecticut is a stark reminder that we must all remain vigilant to safeguard our campuses and children. We want to assure you that the safety of LDISD students is of first importance. We ask our community and families to help us ensure our schools remain safe by alerting principals of any security concerns.
Safety is our number one priority. In order to protect the security of our students, staff members and campus communities, LDISD requires all visitors to report to the school’s main office, present appropriate identification and wear a visible visitor’s badge at all times. If regular visits to schools or direct interactions with students are anticipated, visitors must consent to a criminal history background check. LDISD has developed emergency operations procedures district-wide to ensure safety in emergencies. All campuses have drills and lockdown protocol as part of these procedures and are required to practice this training routinely.
We all want to help our children deal with the tragic news out of Newtown, Connecticut, regarding the mass shooting of adults and young students. Counselors at the elementary campuses are prepared and have offered talking points to teachers on campuses to assist in the effort as needed.
Secretary Arne Duncan of the U.S. Department of Education shared resources for schools to use in talking with children. Helping Youth and Children Recover from Traumatic Events (link: http://rems.ed.gov/HelpingYouthandChildrenRecoverFromTraumaticEvents.aspx) is a compilation of resources from the Department of Education, other federal agencies, and counseling experts.
Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth has also posted a helpful article (link: http://www.wedoitallforkids.com/?p=317) with some guidelines for parents. Joy Crabtree, Psy.D, a licensed psychologist for Cook Children’s Behavioral Health, shares this advice.
Thank you for supporting our district and community. These times remind us all of the importance of our Falcon Family.
Pilot Point ISD superintendent
First and foremost, PPISD has an emergency operations plan. Safety and security procedures are in place. We have staff training and student practice on a regularly. Daily, all of our campuses are in “soft lockdown”. A “soft lockdown” is that classroom doors are locked to entry from the outside or hall. Visitors must check and sign-in at the office after the school day begins. Of course, as all public building are required by law, the doors cannot be locked from the inside to the outside hall or building. As we have these procedures all in place, we are never complacent with our plan. We review and update the process on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, the Board approved adding additional camera security at the High School. This past summer we added a security entrance at our Elementary School. We remained focused and vigilant in providing the safest schools at PPISD.
Personally, I think about and am concerned on a daily basis with the safety and security of the students and staff of PPISD.
Ponder ISD superintendent
We do have scheduled and unscheduled drills of all types including lock down. Our staff and students are familiar with these protocols with the intent being safe, purposeful and deliberate execution of the response plan. On occasion we have been called upon to execute fire evacuation and severe weather response protocol and in each instance our staff and students have executed the plan masterfully.
As for future safety changes; we are constantly analyzing procedures and protocols for improvement. We contract with external safety auditors to provide input as well as having a certified safety inspector on our staff who is constantly monitoring behavior and reviewing practices. Additionally, we listen to our parents, staff, community members and students to learn of their needs and concerns regarding safety issues as we partner with them to provide a safe and comfortable learning environment.
Sanger ISD superintendent
I also am deeply saddened by the tragic events of this past week. In fact, words cannot express my sorrow for ALL those involved. Indeed, this is a wake up call for us individually as parents and collectively as concerned citizens and employees of Sanger ISD. SISD recently conducted a safety audit and made some improvements that were suggested by firm. The audit firm was pleased with our revised plans and procedures to address both lock downs and fire/tornado drills. I am confident that our campus administrators and staff are ready to execute our drills if a situation warrants. These are plans that are practiced throughout our school year. As you can imagine, we are ever more mindful of how we can improve the safety at each of our campuses throughout the district. We start this week with a heavy, heavy heart as we mourn the loss of innocent children and campus officials, but are hopeful that we can bring about positive change with an engaged and caring community.
Winfree Academy Charter School-Denton principal
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School prompts all school systems to review and evaluate their safety and emergency procedures. Winfree Academy provides training to administrators and staff regarding our emergency operating guidelines. Each campus is required to conduct monthly fire drills, 2 lock down drills for external or internal threat per year, and 2 safe-area drills for inclement weather per year. While Winfree Academy is very confident in the systems we have in place for crisis management and daily student safety, we are reviewing those procedures and updating when necessary. Our hearts go out to the brave staff and students at Sandy Hook Elementary.