Friday, December 21, 2012

Parent/Community Forum Q&A


Hello,

I would like to remind all of our parents that the topic of safety and security will be on the January 3, 2013 School Committee agenda.  The School Committee Meetings are held at the Coolidge School, 12 Bancroft Street at 7:00 PM.

I have received additional questions from parents and am working on answering those questions for publication on this blog.  

Sincerely,
Bob Gerardi

Maynard Public Schools
Parent/Community Forum on Security and Safety Q&A
12/17/2012

1.    Q:  What are the exact times that the school doors open for students to come in each morning and for afternoon dismissal?

     A:  At MHS the doors are open from 6:00 AM until 7:45 AM for deliveries.  At 7:45 AM MHS is locked during the day until 1:30 PM.  Teachers are assigned to monitor the front door as part of their duty.

     At Fowler the doors are open for deliveries from 4:30 AM till 8:00 AM.  The doors are then locked at 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM.  The doors are open from 2:00PM till 9:00 PM.

     At Green Meadow all of our classrooms have exterior doors and they are locked at all times.  We have three points of entry in the morning and there are staff monitoring each entry.  The Front door is locked following the preschool arrival, at approximately 8:45.  The two other entry points are locked once the students enter at approximately 8:30.  There is a midday preschool dismissal where the front doors are opened for a brief period as the preschool teachers dismiss their children directly to parents. 

     For the Green Meadow dismissal, the front door is unlocked for the 2:30 preschool dismissal.  The door by the third grade is open at 2:40 by a staff member (generally the principal) who stays by the door for the entire dismissal.  The two entry points are closed once all students are accounted for.  The main entrance remains open for EXCELL and Boys and Girls Club, Cub Scouts, Girls Scouts, and cheer leading.

     In the last couple of days, other school districts have identified that they do not have any lock or buzzer system.  They have stated that the culture of their community is that they have community schools that are open to all.  Likewise, our schools are used after school and on the weekends extensively by community agencies like Boys and Girls club Cub Scouts, Girls Scouts, Recreation and Athletic leagues, and cheer leading.  In the past, our community as has held an expectation that Maynard has community schools and our community will have to reconsider this as we move forward.

2.    Q:  If someone is not recognized when they buzz in at the front door, how does the staff respond?

     A:  The staff is trained to request information, have the visitors sign into a log book, and assign a visitor Badge so that they are recognizable as an outsider in the building.

3.    Q:  Several Parents mentioned that there are times when the staff is not checking visitors after they are buzzed in.

     A:  We will be reviewing our protocols in light of this tragedy.  It is very easy for a staff member in an office area to try and multitask during the course of a busy day.  We now have to reexamine the duties that individuals are responsible for and make sure that security and safety are our #1 priority.

4.    Q:  What is a Lock Down Drill?

     A: A Lock Down Drill is a simulated event that is similar to a Fire Drill.  Everyone evacuates the building as in a fire drill because the goal is to get everyone out of the building safely. 

     In a lock Down Drill everyone finds a predetermined safe space in a locked room.  In addition the teacher has a way to signify if their room is safe so that the first responders can solve the problem more quickly. 

5.    Q: How is the Lock Down Drill Communicated?

     A:  The Lock Down Drill is initiated through a message from the Principal through the loud Speaker system.

6.    Q:  Are Lock Down Drills the same at every school building?

     A:  Lock Down Drills are similar in each building.  However, some strategies are adjusted based on the individual needs or strengths of each building.  Additionally, the older students may be provided other opportunities to learn about safety after the Lock Down

7.    Q:  How do teachers explain the Lock Down Drill to students?

     A:  Teachers are advised on the protocols of various drills during their faculty meeting times after the school day.  We tell students that this drill is about being safe.  We explain their role in being safe.

8.    Q:  If there were a real Lock Down event, how quickly would parents be notified or would they have to hear about it through the media?
    
     A:  Every incident provides a different scenario.  With iPhone and iPad Technology, parents are likely to hear or even see video about an incident almost instantaneously.  Then The Media often gets to a scene and provides minimal and vague information based on what they can find. 

     The Schools or the incident command must follow protocols before parents can be contacted and students dismissed.  I say incident command because once the police arrive on the scene they take over from the schools to become incident command and make these decisions.  If the SWAT Team or State Hazmat team is on the scene then they may take over command.  Each incident is different.

I like to use an example of a mock incident that I participated in when I was a member of the RI Emergency Planning Curricula for local Police, Fire, and Education Committee.  In this incident a person was angry at a science teacher and accidentally shot some chemicals while attacking others in the science class, there was a need call Police and Fire initially,  Once the fire department realized that the smoke was a chemical reaction, they called in the state Hazmat team.  In this scenario, the media may be on the scene with basic information about the incident but a Hazmat Team may be the incident command.  They may have the schools inform parents that some of the students who where not affected will be transported to another school for dismissal while other students will need to be scrubbed on site before they are transported to hospitals for final release.  In this scenario, Parents will get information as the incident unfolds and depending on incident command

9.    Q:  A student reported to their parent that a substitute did not know the protocols for a Lock Down so the students had to tell the Substitute teacher what to do, is this common?

     A:  Unfortunately this does happen on occasion when a substitute has not had a chance to read the teacher substitute folder.  However, as the year goes on our substitute pool stays consistent and they understand our systems.  Another parent also identified that the goal of the drill is for everyone to know their role and isn’t it wonderful that our students know their role well enough to teach the substitute teacher.

10.           Q: During the day are the individual classrooms locked?
    
     A:  Not usually.  In fact at Green meadow, sometimes collaborative classroom activities happen.  If they were happening and a lock down drill was required, they would go back to their rooms.

11.           Q:  Was any thought given to additional Police Presence?
A:  Yes, Chief Dubois had considered it. However he has had similar experiences in other communities where additional Police presence created higher anxiety for students.

12.           Q:  Should we consider physical improvements to the building
           or improving the campus grounds with a gated entry?

     A:  We would have to weigh the cost to benefits of physical improvements.  You can create a fortress but a determined attacker will always research your facilities weakness

     Also, we already have had physical improvement recommendations as a result of our drills.  For example, the addition of blinds in some classrooms will make them less obviously susceptible from outside intrusion.

13.           Q:  Are regular walk throughs of the buildings conducted?

     A:  That is the Principal and Assistant Principals job.  They walk through their building and grounds regularly. 

     Also, our custodians are expected to do rounds at the end of their shift to identify any suspicious activity or physical plant problems.

14.           Q:  Do we have security cameras?
    
     A:  Yes but they are limited.  That is another area that we have talked about improvements.

Monday, December 17, 2012

This Morning and this Afternoon

Hello,

This has been a challenging day for several reasons.  The freezing rain complicated morning travel to the schools, and the tragedy in Connecticut last week had ramifications on how we would support our students, parents, staff, and community.

This morning, the call for a delay of school was compounded by Mother Nature changing things up at the worst time. The DPW was out on the roads in the early morning hours and had treated all of the surfaces. They and determined that the roads and walkways were passable at 5:30 in the morning when the call to cancel or not cancel is usually made. Sometime around 6:00 AM the temperature dropped enough to cause additional freezing in Maynard. Unfortunately the schools only have ice melt and the wet ground can refreeze.  Out of respect for parent schedules, I do not like to call after 6:00 AM and as a result we started school at the regular time.

This afternoon at 3:00PM, a Parent/Community Forum was held to provide information about Maynard School Security and Safety Protocols.  I was pleased that the following colleagues attended to support the presentation and answering of questions.  The Assistant Town Administrator/EMA Director Kevin Sweet, Fire Chief Stowers, Police Chief Dubois, Lt. Dawson, Juvenile Detective Duggan, Principal Dankner, Principal Mela, Principal Caragianes and School Adjustment Counselor Cecilia Tatem Small where all standing near the podium.  There were many other concerned staff in the audience for support as well and I wish I could recognize all of them in this brief summary.

At the forum, our School Adjustment counselor provided literature for parents that explain how to have difficult conversations with our children.   The principals described what preventative measures are currently in place in our schools.  Detective Duggan and I described many of the coordinated town wide efforts between the schools, fire, police and town emergency management officials.  At the end of the presentation, we all answered many excellent questions from the audience.  In an effort to provide multiple opportunities for communication. I explained that I would take notes on the questions and answers and would post them as a Q&A for those who could not attend.  I have written my first draft of the Q&A's but will wait to post them until I have them proof read by the other contributors.  Finally,  the School Committee has suggested that we schedule another presentation to be done at the next available School Committee meeting in an effort to have a night venue for these discussions to take place.

I hope that this information has been helpful and will get the Q&A's up on the blog ASAP.
Sincerely,
Bob Gerardi

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hello,
I would like to assure you that the Maynard Public Schools Support Staff will be ready for students who may need more time to process these events as they come to school on Monday.  The tragedy in Connecticut has been difficult for all of us. It is hard for adults to understand why these events happen which makes it tough for us to help our children and loved ones understand it as well.
As educators, parents, and guardians, we realize that we need to help our children understand violence, safety, and security. I have been receiving good information from the Maynard Public Schools Support Staff that I would like to share with all of you.
The first is a link to a 5 minute video about talking in general with children about tragedy.
The second is a link to the National Association of School psychologist:
 
 
On that web site in the center of the page yuou will see a list of NASP Resources.  The first resource will be tips for parents and teachers about to talk about violence. 
 
Over the weekend, I will be using this information to talk with my children about the tragedy in Connecticut and I hope this will be helpful to you.
Sincerely,
Bob Gerardi